By Rem Rieder
Call it Joni Mitchell's revenge.
This time they're not paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. They're blowing up the parking lot.
And not just any parking lot. This particular parking lot — well, parking garage, if you want to get technical — is one of the most iconic venues in the history of journalism.
It's the place where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward conducted his clandestine meetings with his super-secret source, perhaps the most famous source in history: Deep Throat.
The Arlington County Board in Washington, D.C.'s, Virginia suburbs recently approved a plan to knock down a couple of buildings and replace them with a new residential/commercial complex, The buildings going away are on top of the garage where Woodward and Throat met as the young reporter pursued his investigation of the Watergate break-in.
Today, journalism is an embattled field. The Internet has upended the business model of traditional media, and the search for a bright digital future remains elusive. Journalists themselves don't fare too well in the court of public opinion, where polls find them languishing near the bottom with war criminals and members of Congress.
But Watergate brings to mind a very different time, when journalists were seen as heroic figures waging a lonely battle to uncover the truth and save the republic.
Woodward and fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein were immortalized in the terrific 1976 movie All the President's Men (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98% favorable), which was based on their book detailing their efforts to uncover the nefarious ways of one Richard M. Nixon and his henchmen. Among the most memorable scenes were the late night, film noir-drenched meetings in the doomed garage between Woodward (played by Robert Redford) and Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook).
Nixon, of course, was ultimately forced to resign, and the mythology has it that two young reporters took down a president.
There's no doubt that Woodstein did excellent work. The nation is in their debt for their efforts to keep the story alive after five burglars with links to the Committee to Re-elect the President broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex on June 17, 1972.
But as we know now, there's much more to the story, as there often is.
The reporters were hardly the only ones seeking to determine where the bungling Watergate burglars would lead. Federal prosecutors and the FBI were in diligent pursuit. Often, the dynamic duo's scoops were not news to the feds.
Also, Woodward and Bernstein were hardly the only journalists doing distinguished work. Seymour Hersh of The New York Times and Jack Nelson of the Los Angeles Times, among others, also broke important Watergate stories.
Getting back to the garage, we've learned much more about Deep Throat over the years. For three decades, speculating about the source's identity was a major journalistic parlor game. The mystery ended in 2005 with the revelation that Throat was actually W. Mark Felt, the No. 2 man in the FBI at the time.
We've also learned Felt's motivations were far more layered than his original portrayal as a noble whistle-blower, as Max Holland lays out in his excellent book Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat. Evidence has emerged that Felt was a skilled, not to say Machiavellian, bureaucrat with self-serving motives for helping Woodward. The late Christopher Hitchens once described Felt's/Throat's machinations in The New York Times as "the single most successful use of the news media by an anonymous unelected official with an agenda of his own."
Click here to read entire USA Today article.