Coblenz, W. (Producer), & Pakula, A. J. (Director). (April 9, 1976). All the President’s Men [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.
All the President’s Men is a drama/mystery film that’s based on the true story of The Watergate Scandal, the 1970s break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters of the Watergate complex in Washington, DC that President Nixon and his administration attempted to cover up. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who set out to expose the truth behind the incident and Nixon’s resignation as President.
The topic of ethics is present throughout the whole film, for the two main characters are journalists who, unknowingly at the time, live by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Although the SPJ Code of Ethics wasn’t established at the time of the incident or when the film was made, the four basic principles of it are still present throughout the movie.
The two most significant philosophies of the code of ethics that were seen in this movie were to seek the truth and report it and to be accountable. Bernstein and Woodward did nothing but try and expose the truth behind the scandal, between going over their lists of people over and over again until they got some kind of trustworthy accuracy and flying across America to meet with potential sources and witnesses about the occurrence—they never gave up. Most of their sources were however, anonymous just because many of them were too scared to reveal their true identity, so they faced some kind of difficulty in figuring out how to incorporate their significant facts into their story. When it came to being accountable, both reporters tried nothing but to be a dependable source. They did their research of finding all parties that were some way or another involved with the scandal and went straight to them identifying themselves while questioning them on the matter. By them identifying themselves before questioning shows that they are indeed accountable and trustworthy, for they weren’t trying to get information under false pretenses.
Some ethical concerns were raised in other points of the film as well. For example, when Bernstein went down to Florida for his appointment with Martin Dardis, he had to sneak into the office when Dardis’ secretary wasn’t looking because she said they had to reschedule his appointment and Bernstein knew that Dardis was indeed in his office but didn’t want to meet with him. Another ethical concern was with their biggest and most reliable source of the secret informant “Deep Throat” who happened to be one of Woodward’s sources he’s had contact with in the past. His demeanor is seen to be extremely sketchy through his nickname, the way he spoke in only metaphors and riddles of telling them to “follow the money” and how/where he chose to meet up. The most important ethical concern raised was the President himself and how he chose to cover the whole situation up of taking money for his reelection campaign.
Society of Professional Journalists. (2014). SPJ code of ethics. Nashville, Tenn. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp