Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam

Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam

Author:Dorothy Butler Gilliam
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Center Street
Published: 2019-01-07T16:00:00+00:00

Bradlee rehired me just as The Washington Post’s stature as a newspaper was about to be magnified worldwide by its reporting about the Watergate break-in on June 17, 1972. The story began as an unusual crime on the police blotters: a break-in by five men at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and an arrest at two thirty a.m. One of the men arrested, James McCord, worked for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CREEP). Another, Bernard Barker, had money that had been raised for the Richard Nixon campaign deposited in his bank account.

The story became the most groundbreaking story in U.S. journalism history, accomplished by dogged digging by Bob Woodward, a navy vet and Yale graduate, and Carl Bernstein, a native of Washington who hadn’t completed his University of Maryland education. He was a good “shoe-leather” reporter (one who didn’t shy away from stories that required going out and knocking on doors to talk to people), but some editors considered him a bit of a loose cannon. I personally admired both of them and their work but Carl was my favorite. Staffers called the pair Woodstein. With them and The Washington Post in constant pursuit, the story developed over the course of two years.

The Watergate saga spilled over into the Style section as reporters and editors who wanted to be part of the mix wrote profiles of some of the key players. The latest Watergate developments were a constant subject at our daily meetings. I wasn’t part of the editing or reporting of the story, but I was curious about how it was developing. I was also pleased that Roger Wilkins, the editorial writer, was bringing his sharp intellect, racial sensitivity, and eagle eye to its developments. The New York Times, CBS, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, and others joined in original reporting, revealing stories about the cover-up by the Nixon administration and publishing stories on the special prosecutor, until everything slowly came to a head, leading to the resignation of President Nixon in August 1974.

The magnificent moment when The Washington Post won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service confirmed that Bradlee’s and Katharine Graham’s Washington Post had become a great newspaper. Along with reporting by Woodward and Bernstein, Roger Wilkins’s editorials on the Watergate scandal, and cartoons by Herbert Block (whom we called Herblock, as was his byline) helped The Washington Post win the coveted award. I was thrilled.

It was an exciting time to be at the paper, as the Style section played an important role in enhancing The Washington Post’s stature. As one of the editors of the section, I wanted to paint a larger world of black culture nationally. The people I wanted to feature in The Washington Post were the heirs to a long history of creativity. Black culture’s genesis lay partly in the segregated system that had forced us Blacks to live in a world of our own. Blacks built churches, businesses, colleges, and universities despite hostility and oppression.


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