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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974

The Watergate File:

The Watergate File:

This book was compiled as "a concise, illustrated guide to the people and events." It might be expected, from a book published in the middle of such a complicated mess, that its contents might be a little scrappy, its findings inconclusive, its facts a little bald. I was expelling that. But I was, perhaps expecting some sort of order in the chaos, some insight into the affair that was missed by our New Zealand newspapers. Perhaps I was expecting much.

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For those Amerika freaks who cut out of the Evening Post every new item related to Tricky Dicky and his saintly crew of nepotic henchmen, to paste in a gilt-edged scrapbook, this book will go down as yet news verbiage obtuse (but expensive) piece of news verbiage. What they will find new the coverage of the systematic sabotage of the Democratic campaign by CREEP (the Committee to Re-elect the President). This is good James Bond stuff, that for some obscure reason was not considered worth reporting by New Zealand papers. But for the readers of Time or Newsweek even this hat is old.

Another problem with this kind of book is that it is obsolete before written. The Watergate bog has deepened considerably since August 22, 1973, which is the last date mentioned in the book. The surrender of the tapes, the discovery of 'accidental' erasures, the moves to impeach the unimpeachable, the crafty plots to implicate Haig and Kissinger, all these have happened since then. The lamb has gone to slaughter, and the rest of Nixon's staff have been running like a chess side about to be mated. The hook misses out on all these. It could be useful for refreshing memories—it does indeed have a checklist of all people who have dirtied their feel, as well as excerpts from vital papers, trial transcripts, etc—but for what you get it is an expensive period piece.

Even so, the book would have been worthwhile, if it had done what it had set out to do—give a systematic chronological account of Watergate. But this it emphatically fails to do. Sloppy journalism and sloppy editing have produced a tome that frequently causes more confusion than it succeeds in clarifying. The style is sensationalist, attempting to metamorphose every little trip to the toilet into an unbelievable, eye-scaring, ear-shattering revelation. This quickly becomes unbearable. Irrelevancies are dwelled upon, widely separate encounters are connected by furtive innuendo, while major events are frequently glossed over, leaving me with the impression that the "team of four investigative reporters, with a staff of over 200 researchers, (who) worked intensively for more than two months" have not done their homework.

And they are not the only ones who should have sore behinds. The illustrations lack captions, and the credits for them on the, back page give erroneous page numbers. The copy seems to have been put together without being proofread—while paragraphs have been misplaced; in two places making incomprehensible nonsense of the text. Even headings suffer from this whole page is devoted to the single, wrongly spelt word 'Appendicies'). The layout itself often interferes with easy reading. The cover of my copy cracked the first time it was opened.

Finally it must be realised that within the next two years there is bound to be 20 or 30 different analyses of Watergate on the market to choose from, most written by people with inside information, such as Mitchener, Capote. Nader. Kissinger, Agnew, Nixon, McCord, all of which, if less accurate, will at least be able to promise more lively reading.

However I do not want to dissuade people from buying this book. If you want bad journalism, bad editing, bad layout, bad proofreading, bad binding on a subject which is already badly out-of-date, then this is the book for you. And I suppose that for people with such unusual tastes any price is cheap enough.