Last night I watched the DVD of the movie Frost/Nixon. The movie is slow paced, very similar to All The President’s Men in that aspect. The acting is really good, with veteran Frank Langella playing Nixon.
I honestly don’t remember these interviews, but of course I was only 10 years old in 1977. Few of our students today, unfortunately really even know much about Richard Nixon, Watergate or Vietnam. Too many times the history curriculum does not give a lot of time for more recent events.
This movie would make a good companion piece for All The President’s Men. But what I found striking about the entire movie is that David Frost was NOT a journalist. When I first heard about this movie, I mistakenly thought that he was a British journalist. But he was a tallk show host.
This blows out of the water all of the arguments that all great reporting and interviewing MUST be done by trained, schooled, approved, stamped journalists. David Frost was nothing of the sort, either before or after the Nixon interviews. But during the interviews, he WAS a top notch journalist.
Yes, he went to Cambridge and was well educated, but so are numerous bloggers today. I think having a solid general liberal arts education and an inquisitive mind are much more important to being a good journalist than any specific training in journalism.
The techniques of journalism can be learned by nearly anyone who is curious enough to want to know how to do it. Many can be taught in a day or even a matter of hours. Then it really comes down to practice, improvement, refinement and renewal. This can be done on a blog, podcast or in nearly any medium.
Frost was a quick study and he was also willing to show his subject a little human dignity (at least in this cinematic portrayal). This was one of the ways, plus a little check book journalism, that he won over Nixon and earned his approval for the interview.
I think that this sort of journalism will produce results again in the future. I am not saying that there is no value to journalistic training at either the high school or college level. What I am saying is that journalism is better regarded as practice than profession, and that those who deride part-time or amature journalists do so at their own peril. The big three networks learned this lesson in the ’70s and the big newspaper companies are relearning this lesson today. Anyone can be a journalist if they want to be. And today it doesn’t take huge sums of cash. Frost could produce the Frost/Nixon interviews today for the price of a laptop, editing softare, microphones and a light kit. The entire thing could be done online for less than $10,000. The only real expense would still be paying Nixon’s fee.
It may have been the biggest example of checkbook journalism ever, but the success is undeniable. He was able to get the most notorious politician of the American 20th Century to admit to wrong doing in public and on tape. That is powerful journalism and worth a watch.