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Stan Zoller
English and journalism teacher
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Lesson Plans

Watergate: The Coverage and the Aftermath

Watergate: The Coverage and the Aftermath

Stan Zoller of Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Stan Zoller
Waukegan High School
Waukegan, Ill.

Title: Watergate:The Coverage and Aftermath

Overview and rationale

This plan is part of the unit that addresses the history of journalism, law and ethics, and defining the news. This lesson gives students insight into one of most historical investigative efforts in print journalism, legal and ethical practices used by reporters involved in the story, and how certain elements of the investigation became, and did not become, news.

Students are also expected to discuss and analyze the impact the story had on the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Goals for Understanding

  • Students will analyze the impact on investigative journalism because of the Washington Post coverage of Watergate.
  • Students will display, and criticize or defend, techniques used by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
  • Students will be able to identify and discuss proper use of anonymous and unnamed sources.
  • Using history and the resignation of President Nixon, students will be able to discuss the power of the print media and its treatment of public officials during and since the Nixon administration.

Resources / Materials

  • The movie, “All the President’s Men” (1976)
  • Coverage of the 25th anniversary of Watergate from Journalism Education Today, published by the Journalism Education Association.
  • “Introduction to Journalism” Published by McDougal, Littell 2001

Overviews and Timelines

Activity 1 (One 44-minute class period)

  • Teacher-prompted on discussion based on Journalism Education Today article.
  • Students will write an analysis in response to the article and previous material on law, ethics, and defining the news.

Activity 2 (Three 44-minute class periods)

  • Student viewing of “All the President’s Men”

Activity 3 (One 44-minute class period)

  • Post-movie discussion comparing what students read about the Washington Post coverage and the portrayal in the movie. With emphasis on:
  • Journalistic techniques.
  • Development and use of sources.
  • Handling of ethical and legal situations.


Students will write a paper explaining, in detail:

  • Development and handling of news sources.
  • Handling of “off the record” comments.
  • Handling of anonymous sources
  • Follow-up sources.
  • Presenting both sides.
  • Perceived Washington Post policies.
  • How the Post published the story.

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