COMM436/636: History of the Mass Media

Group Assignment: The Press and Watergate
Watergate is a building in Washington, and also a nickname for one of the most famous and controversial political crises in American history. Investigative journalism beginning with two reporters from the Washington Post eventually led to Richard Nixon's resignation--the first resignation of a U.S. president in history.

Prepare the following report on this major event as a group, assigning duties as follows:

Investigator one: internet resources. Gather research on Watergate based on a search of Internet resources. Carefully record and assess web site sponsoring organizations for probable accuracy, credibility and fairness. Find at least five sites with material helping to explain this event, with the focus on background leading up to the resignation of August 1974. Emphasize journalism angle.

Investigator two: the local scene. Gather research on Watergate-related events of August 1974, based on local/regional journalism coverage. Particularly look at how stories were played in publications (number of stories, cover treatment or not, size of headlines, amount of space used as a percentage of the page) and look at editorial/op-ed sections to see if the publication included local commentary (written by someone on staff, or letters to the editor, local columns) on the event. You may search any local/regional publication either from this area or from your home town area, but most easily accessible are The Fargo-Moorhead Forum and Minneapolis/St. Paul Star-Tribune. The latter was actually two separate newspapers in 1974; choose one. Because NDSU's library is recovering from flood-related damage, you'll have to do this search using microfilm at the Fargo Public Library, Concordia library, Minnesota State University-Moorhead library, or a hometown library if you go home on the weekend.

Investigator three: oral history. Read an encyclopedia article on Watergate for general background knowledge. Then interview (by telephone or preferably in person) at least two people who remember Watergate. These may include ONE relative, such as a parent or grandparent, plus a second person, such as a co-worker, teacher, neighbor, or (aging) friend. Ask them what they generally remember about the month Nixon resigned, what they thought about Watergate at the time, and what they think now, what they remember of the press's role in the event, whether they watched television broadcast of the Watergate hearings, and whatever other questions you think of. Take careful notes on the answers.

In class: get together with your assigned group and prepare to write a single report based on your three investigations. Assign the person whose hometown is farthest from NDSU as "P.I." (Principal Investigator). Each member of the group describes in detail, based on his or her written notes, what he or she has found out about Watergate. The P.I. makes his or her own oral report, listens carefully to the other reports, notes inconsistencies as well as important threads. He or she then distills the material presented into two or three main points each member of the group should emphasize when writing a section of the final report. Other group members can debate the P.I.'s choice before a final determination is made.

The group shares in writing the final report: Investigator One writes based on material found by Investigator Three (the oral history). Investigator Two writes based on material found by Investigator One (internet). And, of course, Investigator Three writes based on material found by Investigator Two (local scene). At a subsequent class meeting, the P.I. will make an oral report to the class based on the material presented by the group.

Hand in for grading:
Group report (at least four pages typed).

Individual investigator's report: (at least a page and a half typed).