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Ad Age's Rance Crain '60 Writes of Bob Woodward's Ubben Lecture at DePauw

December 12, 1994

Rance Crain 1992.jpgDecember 12, 1994, Greencastle, Ind. — Rance Crain, editor-in-chief of Advertising Age and a member of DePauw's Class of 1960, has a theory: "If the Washington Post had not assigned two young metro reporters to the story and had instead given it to its White House contingent, I believe the truth about Watergate as part of an elaborate dirty tricks scheme would never have become known. The White House press corps, not known for its gumshoe abilities, would have written the episode off as a two-bit break-in of the Democratic National Committee's office without wider implications." (at left: Rance Crain; below: Bob Woodward speaking in DePauw's Meharry Hall)

Crain, president of Crain Communications, notes in his column today that he had an opportunity to share his hypothesis with Bob Woodward, one of the two Post reporters who broke the story, when Woodward visited DePauw University on December 2 as a guest of the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture Series. He writes, "Mr. Woodward, much to my disappointment, did not support my theory about Watergate. He contends the Watergate burglary ''was like a string on a sock. Pull it and the rest unravels.'' Watergate was the 'triggering event.' I'm not convinced. President Nixon's mistake was in trying to cover up the Watergate burglary. That's what brought him down. If the two young Washington Post reporters hadn't linked it to a broader pattern of disruption, history would have been very different."

A member of the advisory board of DePauw's Center for Contemporary Media, Crain writes, "The thrust of Mr. Woodward's remarks to Bob Woodward Ubben.jpgthe students and faculty was not about Watergate but about his contention that the press was 'not up to the task before us to explain what's going on.' He said the media 'missed the big change' in their pre-election coverage and so failed to prepare readers and viewers about the momentous implications of the Republican sweep ... Mr. Woodward's view is that we in the media, as well as the recipients of our products, are too focused on the latest development. But, he said, the latest is often 'irrelevant or untrue.' What people want, Mr. Woodward said, is 'straight talk. Error is the trajectory of learning, but the problem is we don't have the culture to admit an error and move on' ... What makes a good story, he emphasized, is the 'quality of the information ... Information has power, not reporters.''

Read the complete column at the publication's Web site (a paid subscription is required).

An article summarizing Bob Woodward's Ubben Lecture at DePauw can be accessed here.

Source: Advertising Age

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