Flashback: When Watergate Hearings Gripped America

The opening paragraphs here should draw you in:

The media coverage of Watergate gave us much of today’s concussive, ballistic jargon of scandal. There were “bombshells.” There were “smoking guns.” Ever since, we have measured controversies as if on a decibel meter, judging them by their “fireworks” and “explosive” drama. But the most striking thing for a viewer in 2019, watching the gavel-to-gavel public-TV coverage of the first Senate hearings that began on May 17, 1973, is the quiet.

There are no flashy opening graphics, just a stately timpani over the text of a Senate resolution. There are no yammering newsroom panels, no countdown clocks, no hashtags. There’s just testimony in a hushed hearing room and two soft-spoken anchors at humdrum desks, trying to figure out what the president knew, when he knew it and whether democracy still worked.

It’s a spoiler-proof rabbit hole, captivating even with the knowledge of how the finale ended. And with our own impeachment serial airing its pilot Wednesday, it’s a kind of time travel, a way to experience how different in tone and tenor our media and politics were nearly five decades ago.

Read the full piece. Tomorrow we’ll run live-streams for the first full day of testimonies. Gird your loins.