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Watergate's John Dean goes over the edge

John Dean of Watergate fame goes bonkers in a response to a New York Times story on gaps and errors in the Nixon tapes transcripts. That there are gaps and errors is not in dispute. Transcriber Stanley Kutler admits as much. He blames the difficulty of listening to hundreds of hours of scratchy, faint recordings.

Surely the lacunae are fodder for academic and journalistic discussion. Dean thinks not. In a long-winded, emotional blast on the Daily Beast, he questions Patricia Cohen's competence in covering the story, compares the Times with the National Enquirer and, in the new and already tedious habit of aggrieved readers and news subjects, says newspapers are failing because they print stories he doesn't like.

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Here's what I found to be the rant's biggest howler:

Most journalists would consider an unpublished submission even less credible than a complaint filed in a lawsuit (since lawyers can be disbarred for false and frivolous complaints), and scrupulous journalists only report on legal complaints after they have been litigated and tested.

I guess that's why Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whom Dean seems to revere, waited until Nixon had been arrested, charged and tried by a jury of his peers before they wrote their Watergate stories. No journalist waits, or should wait, before reporting an important lawsuit or compelling evidence of wrongdoing. Or an interesting paper submitted to U.S. history's most important journal.

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