, editor of the Austin American-Statesman
, came under criticism Friday from none other than Carl Bernstein
and Bob Woodward
, arguably the most important journalists alive today.
At an event sponsored by Oppel's organ at UT's McCullough Theatre, entitled Watergate and the Media: Did the System Work?, the three were part of a panel discussion. It was supposed to be about the impact of Watergate on journalism but soon became increasingly uncomfortable for Oppel as the respected journalists questioned his role at the Statesman
and his approach to news-gathering.
Bernstein was shocked when he discovered that Oppel runs the two most important sections of his paper: the News and Editorial pages. He was amazed that Oppel did not see this as a dangerous conflict-of-interest. "You run the News desk and the Editorial desk, and you don't think that's a problem?" said the Washington Post
veteran with obvious disbelief in his voice. "Did you know about this?" he asked Woodward.
Oppel tried to defend his position by comparing himself to legendary Post
Publisher Katharine Graham
. He said that she was ultimately in charge of both desks, but Bernstein was having none of it. "Now you know there's a big difference between a publisher and an editor," he replied.
Oppel was then challenged by both Bernstein and Woodward when he said he thought confidential sources damaged journalism. The giants of the printed word, who helped legitimize the practice through their use of leaks from FBI assistant director Mark "Deep Throat" Felt
, said they were essential for good journalism. Recalling his 2002 story about early plans to invade Iraq, Woodward told Oppel, "I had six people who, if they had gone on the record, would have been fired or gone to prison. If you think they'd have gone on the record, you're wrong." Read More | 1 Comment »