BELUSHI TALK: DEALING WITH CRITICISM AND WHAT PEOPLE REMEMBER
You know, I think often criticism means you struck a nerve. And in the case of Belushi and drug use and the Hollywood and entertainment world, that book came out in 1984, probably the first book to de-mythologize excessive cocaine use, and say, "By the way, it kills you, and it wrecks your life and it infects everything you do, particularly if you're talented and you're trying to have a career or trying to have a life." Turns out I understated everything in that book. I knew I was understating it. The criticism was, as John Belushi's widow said in a very pathetic rejoinder to me, "Well, he didn't show that doing drugs can be fun." A criticism to which I willingly plead guilty. That drugs have killed and destroyed and mangled personalities and lives in a way. The criticism was not that what was in the book was not true, it was that I didn't show this good, positive side. In fact, the book does show that. What's interesting, and this is one of the things you learn as a reporter, the book is quite long, some 400 pages, I believe, and it spends many pages and chapters on skits on "Saturday Night Live," funny things in the movies, what he did, his generosity to his family, and so forth. Unfortunately when you read it, you don't remember things like that. It's as if you and I talk here in this interview, say for half the day, and then we walk out, and somebody gets out of the elevator and I pull a gun out and shoot them. What are you gonna remember about the half-day interview you did with Woodward? You're gonna remember that he shot somebody, apparently without provocation and in cold blood, as that person got off the elevator. Belushi's demise was so ugly, was so pathetic, was the continuous ingesting of more and more drugs, more and more crazy behavior, more and more efforts by friends and family to somehow save him from himself when they were, in a way, drug enablers. Such an awful story, you don't remember the good parts. And there's no way I'm gonna ever get anyone to remember the good parts. You will write, as reporters, stories that are, say, 40 inches long. 40 paragraphs. Maybe it will be the one paragraph where you got something wrong, or the one paragraph where you said something particularly outrageous that will lodge in people's minds. And that just happens. And so it becomes the story about what was in paragraph 17. And you may say, "But the story was about..." Well, unfortunately that's it. Richard Nixon in Watergate. He and the people in the Nixon White House always lamented, "They're always writing about Watergate," and "What about foreign policy, what about all the great things that Nixon allegedly did?" They literally wanted our Watergate stories to begin with, "Nixon, the great foreign policy president, did the following in the Soviet Union and China..." and in paragraph 17 say, "And by the way, he was a criminal and covered up what was going on, and the Watergate burglary team which was really a White House burglary team." And unfortunately, paragraph 17 belongs in the lead. And that was the story. (来源：EnglishCN.com)
REACTION TO FAME
Well, I think as our book All the President's Men shows, and the movie that they did about it, it is an authentic, valid version of what journalism is, and that is it's hard, it's slow. On the really tough stories you're not absolutely sure. You don't have tape recordings, you don't have nine people on the record. You have to make judgements. And we happened to be the young police reporters working on that story at that particular time. It was for lots of people that the Post involved in that story, lots of editors, lots of guidance, lots of restraint, lots of wisdom, lots of support. And that's really what the book and Watergate coverage was about. We were only kind of the guys out on the line doing some of the reporting, and by no means all of it.
Somebody the other day was saying to me that the period of the '60s and '70s was kind of the age of journalism. The Vietnam War, which the government was not being explicit with the public about, there was Watergate, and those crimes, which certainly the government was not being forthright about. And so journalists kind of went around and did the job of looking below the surface. I don't think that really tells you a whole lot about journalism. What it does is tells you about the government. And the government was off the tracks. Vietnam War, even the people who supported it now call it a tragedy and a mistake. Certainly the crimes of Watergate were a constitutional crime of unparalleled magnitude. And what I find interesting in continuing to cover a government, is the government has changed. The people, though by no means perfect, by no means, they have their flaws, think they incorporated the lessons of Vietnam and Watergate and that is you have to pretty much explain what you're doing, you have to be pretty honest, and that in God's name, you can't try to cover up criminal activity by aides, and people in the political process, or in the institution. And so what has happened is the lessons of Vietnam and Watergate have been internalized. And the people in government are kind of smarter about things. Take George Bush. Bush talks to the press two, three, four times a week, often every day. If you read what he says, he basically tells you what's going on. Now, is it complete, is it sometimes untrue, yes. But basically this is the direction we're going, and writing the book about the Gulf war, I found Bush's press conferences. It was amazing. He made it pretty clear he was not gonna tolerate what Saddam Hussein had done in Kuwait, he was not gonna let it stand, that he was gonna deploy these troops. And his rhetoric pretty much conformed to his action. Now a lot of people didn't think he would really go to war and pull the trigger, but if you look at what he said, he was pretty straightforward. Does that mean he's totally straightforward? No. But the government basically learned those lessons. Or at least a lot of people in government did.