Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mark Felt the right thing

The death, at the age of 95 no less, of Mark Felt should not and does not go unmarked.

It had to be done properly, and it had particularly to be done at and by the Washington Post. It falls to Mark Stuever, on the front page of the third section of today's paper, to do it justice:
He was Deep Throat, ya know? Without a single byline he inspired thousands and thousands of campus misfits to get journalism degrees, each one of them in pursuit of bad haircuts, smoking habits and the next Deep Throat, the next huge story. Any "-gate" that followed or may yet follow feels incomplete without its own Deep Throat.
Stuever makes the essential link: it wasn't just what Felt did:
Bernstein [was asked] whether he considered Felt "an American hero," as Felt's family claimed when their father and grandfather "came out" in May 2005. "Look," Bernstein said, "Watergate was a constitutional crisis in a criminal presidency. And he had the guts to say: 'Wait. The Constitution is more important in this situation than a president of the United States who breaks the law.' It's an important lesson, I think, for the country and for people in our business, as well."
Bernstein, of course, will forever be Dustin Hoffman, as much as Woodward has to share space with Robert Redford.

Stuever's other point is equally valid: it was important that the "Woodstein"/Deep Throat story emerged though newsprint. There is a mystical link between the best (and sometimes the worst) of the daily prints and the popular consciousness:
Things have changed. Perhaps too much has changed. But not everything has changed. There was, after all, a line of people around the block at 15th and M streets in November, desperate to buy a copy of the newspaper after Election Day. True, they wanted it as a souvenir, as a thing to stow away in cardboard boxes in closets. The point being, they wanted it.
And that is why, in boxes in Malcolm's attic are relics of past times: British General Elections over forty years, 9/11, and -- most recently -- the Obama election. Sphere: Related Content

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