Yes, I’ve seen “All The President’s Men” enough times to know many of the lines by heart, but I still appreciate Andrew Ferguson‘s latest “Press Man” column for Commentary (not yet posted online). It delves into Max Holland’s new book Leak, which rebuts many of the journalistic myths collected in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s famous book and film.

Woodward and Bernstein, even in combination with their fellow Washington reporters, did not expose the scandal’s breadth through their investigative work. Holland quotes Time’s Sandy Smith, a now forgotten reporter whose coverage of Watergate was as ample as Woodward and Bernstein’s. “There’s a myth that the press did all this, uncovered all the crimes,” Smith said. “It’s bunk. … In my material there was less than two percent that was truly original investigation.” The same could be said of the [Washington] Post’s coverage. The other 98 percent consisted of information parceled out to reporters by government investigators from congressional committees and the FBI — colorless drudges who looked nothing like Robert Redford.

Even so, the mythologists say, the Post’s great contribution was to keep the Watergate story percolating, buying time for government investigators to do their work before the public and Congress lost interest. And the Post did indeed boom the Watergate scandal day after day through late 1972 and early 1973. It did this by publishing prominently placed articles by Woodward and Bernstein that were either redundant or wrong.

Those interested in the Watergate scandal might want to revisit Gene Boyce’s September 2011 presentation on the topic for the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society.