Letter: Carl Bernstein Talk Squandered?

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Last Thursday we squandered a great opportunity. The great opportunity being Carl Bernstein giving a talk followed by a Q&A. How we squandered it? By focusing our questions on and asking him to talk about political philosophy, which in turn became pseudo political philosophy. This is a misstep on our part because Bernstein is not a political philosopher. However, he does have a wealth of knowledge on other subjects that would have been insightful to hear about. Unfortunately, the advertisements for Bernstein’s talk prompted students to anticipate Police States as a topic instead of as a possible context surrounding the topic of whistleblowing. Police States as a topic is not Bernstein’s field of knowledge. Bernstein himself expressed his confusion about the topic by asking why he had been asked to lecture on this topic during his dinner with me and other students at the Parker House. After his talk concluded, and the Q&A began, students continued to press the topic of Police States. Things became awkward and Reedies along with Bernstein became frustrated. Frustration turned into rudeness at times. Most of the frustration seemed to center on miscommunication. Reedies and Bernstein did not have the same concept of what a Police State is, and what terrorists–specifically eco terrorists–are. These points never got clarified and the discussion degenerated. The talk and questions could have been utilized to talk about subjects Bernstein is an expert on. I would have loved to hear more about journalism’s past roles, current roles, and future roles. I wanted to hear about the role of a good editor, how to write journalistically, creative nonfiction, the comparison of memoir writing and journalism. Bernstein could have discussed how to decide to run (or not run) something that could be harmful to the community/authorities. These topics would have yielded much more. At times these topics did get raised: The heart of journalism–finding the best version of the truth–and the subjectivity of journalism–to not portray the story as 50/50 if it is not in reality. This was my highlight of the talk. Thanks, David Satten-Lopez