ONE FRIDAY NIGHT IN LATE November, I found myself at a fancy party on the University of Texas campus in Austin, speaking to a few hundred lawyers from Fulbright and Jaworski. The storied firm was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Leon Jaworski’s appointment as Watergate special prosecutor at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, where the Woodward and Bernstein archive will soon be housed, and I was asked to “say a few words about the First Amendment.” This should have been a happy task; like every journalist, I have a soft spot for freedom of the press. But as I got to thinking about the contentious relationship between government and the media these days, my mood blackened—and I didn’t feel any better when I called David Anderson, a contributing editor at the magazine and a longtime UT law professor and First Amendment scholar, for a little shoring up. Watergate was supposed to herald the beginning of a new era, David said, in which the press would fulfill its institutional role as a watchdog—aggressively reporting on the big issues of the day, exposing wrongdoing and scandals. And for a while, that’s what happened. But in the past few years, access to information and people in power has been curtailed in an unprecedented way, and all of us are the worse for it. “Everything’s gone to hell,” he said.
David’s words have been ringing in my ears since that conversation, and no wonder. We’ve