Sunday, August 28, 2016

Watergate, Safire, Nixon, information, and wisdom

I re-watched a great movie last night, "All the President's Men." Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman played reporters Woodward and Bernstein on the trail of the criminal activities inside and outside the Nixon White House.

At one point, Woodward is stuck. He has a name of a campaign operative, Kenneth Dahlberg, and no other information about the man. In this well-pre-Internet time (1972), Woodward starts searching through the many Washington Post's phone books from anywhere. He gets an assistant's research findings from the paper's news clippings. All she returns is a picture of Mr. Dahlberg getting  an award in Minnesota. 

Back to the phone book goes Woodward, this time to the Minneapolis phone book. He gets a phone number and in this time before caller id and call screening. Dahlberg answers. And a temporary roadblock is removed.

Today, Woodward would have used the smartphone in his pocket to do his research, perhaps quicker, but likely he would never have had his suspect answer the phone.

We have a lot of information at our fingertips in the digital world. Are we any better informed, any wiser?

I've been faced with a similar dilemma: I want to promote my book in a world awash in information. My publisher (the anonymous Amazon) recommends I write a blog, do a video, post on Facebook, create a Web site. All of which I have done. But still, why would someone pick my book out of the tide of information available to them, to get informed, to kill time, to be a better parent?

The best solution seems to be a pretty-old fashioned one. Show a copy of my book to someone and have them flip through it. More often than not, they buy it.

William Safire, my former boss and Richard Nixon's speechwriter, said that despite the digital revolution, people will still want a copy of a printed book in their hands and a personal connection with the author. And Safire was right.

Which somewhat leads me back to Robert Redford in the movie chasing Safire's boss, Nixon, with only people and paper.

Thanks for reading and if you are so inclined to get more information on my book, click the photo below. I'm available for coffee anytime.

Healing the Brain -- available on

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