The 1970s


Fueled by events and attitudes from the 1960s, the1970s bloomed with flower power, sexual liberation, drug use and protests. The counterculture's impact on the 1970s also included music and fashion. But as exciting as the social movement was, it wouldn't be outdone by the media drama.

Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered President Richard Nixon's involvement with the Watergate scandal, which led to Nixon's resignation. Convinced that the Vietnam War was wrong, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine and Department of Defense expert, leaked the 1968 Defense Department history of Vietnam, later referred to as the Pentagon Papers, to The New York Times.

All in the Family, a television show with a bigoted protagonist, debuted along with a host of other programs dealing with the social issues of the day. Gonzo journalism emerged. Personal computers, an invention that would cross the decades and revolutionize media, originated in the 1970s.

Journalists and media personalities

Robert Woodward

Robert Woodward

In 1972 and 1973, Woodward worked with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein on stories that led to the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Supported by The Washington Post editor Ben Bradley, the pair investigated a foiled burglary of the Democratic Party's headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. Eventually, their investigations of the break-in revealed a scandal involving the Committee to Re-Elect the President and Nixon himself. Many of the high-ranking committee members and members of Nixon's administration were indicted on federal charges of burglary and disrupting Democratic Party activities. In 1973, Woodward and Bernstein won the Pulitzer Prize for their stories.

Carl Bernstein

Carl Bernstein

Many considered Woodward and Bernstein's investigation foolish and their stories inaccurate. The pair's use of an anonymous source, known as Deep Throat, fueled the skepticism of the public and eve their editor, Ben Bradley. Their stories revealed the truth about Nixon's and other high-ranking officials' unscrupulous behavior to get Nixon re-elected. Woodward and Bernstein have been credited with cracking the Watergate scandal, which led to Nixon's resignation August 8, 1974. In 1973, Bernstein and Woodward won the Pulitzer Prize for their stories.

Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham

A newspaper and magazine publisher who transformed The Washington Post into one of the most influential newspapers in the country. She took control of the paper in 1963, after the suicide of her husband, Phil Graham. In 1971 she gave her editors approval to publish the Pentagon Papers after a federal court enjoined The New York Times from doing so. Three years later she encouraged reporters Bernstein and Woodward in their relentless investigation of the Watergate scandal. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for her memoir, Personal History.

Mark Felt, a.k.a. "Deep Throat"

Mark Felt

Upset after Richard Nixon refused to promote him to the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mark Felt anonymously leaked information about the president's roll in the Watergate Scandal to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. Woodward, Carl Bernstein and the Washington Post honored Felt's request to remain anonymous, and the secret identity of "Deep Throat" remained hotly debated in Washington DC for for 35 years. Felt, who was in failing health and losing his memory, finally admitted his identity as the source in a 2005 Vanity Fair article, shortly before his death.

Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters

Walters moved up the professional ladder at NBC's The Today Show, a morning news program, and was part of the news team sent to report on President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972. She was finally named co-host of The Today Show in 1974. She was part of the news team sent to report on President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972.In 1976, Walters moved to the ABC Evening News to become the first female co-anchor of a national, nightly news show. She did not have a good working relationship with co-anchor Harry Reasoner.In 1979, she was teamed with Hugh Downs on the news show 20/20, a much more amicable pairing. During the 1970s, world figures interviewed by Walters included Egypt's President Anwar Al Sadat, Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Cuba's President Fidel Castro.

Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh

In 1970, Hersh, an investigative reporter, broke the story of the My Lai massacre, recounting how U.S. troops killed over 300 unarmed civilian in the small Vietnamese village of My Lai. He won a Pulitzer Prize for the piece, which prompted an investigation of the attempted cover-up by the U.S. military. Hersh's report greatly contributed to the flagging support the Vietnam War received from the American public.

Jim McKay

Jim McKay

McKay was a sport announcer and journalist known for his work on ABC's Wide World of Sports when, during the 1972 Olympics, he became the face of ABC's coverage of the Munich hostage crisis, reporting on the events for 16 hours as they unfolded. When the rescue attempt ended in disaster. after it had originally been reported as a success, McKay relayed the information to the American viewing public.

"When I was a kid my father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were eleven hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone." McKay said.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

American journalist and feminist, Steinem gained prominence as a spokeswoman for women's rights both in lectures and television appearances. She helped found the National Women's Political Caucus (1971), the Women's Action Alliance (1971) and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (1974). She was also the founding editor (1972-87) of Ms., a feminist magazine. Her books include Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) and Revolution from Within (1992).

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter Stockton Thompson

Originally a sports journalist, Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone during the late 1960s and 1970s and published several books. He is called the father of gonzo journalism, a writing style marked by his manic and twisted lifestyle — including the use of practically every recreational drug known to man. Some of his best known books include The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.

Political Scene

Social Climate

Media Moments

May 4th, 1970 – Four Dead in Ohio

A scene of chaos from Kent State

Four students were shot and killed by National Guardsman during protests on the Kent State campus. The students were protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia which President Nixon had announced the week before.

An audio recording of the protest surfaced 35 years later, reopening a debate regarding whether the guard were ordered to open fire on the students.

A scene of chaos from Kent State

College student photographer John Paul Filo won a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio crouching over the body of student Jeffery Miller. During the early 1970s, the photograph was altered by someone to remove a fence post from behind Vecchio.

On May 14, 1970, another confrontation in Mississippi with police at the traditionally black college of Jackson State left two protesters dead, but received less media attention.

January 12, 1971 – Archie Bunker arrives

Carol O'Conner as Archie Bunker

All in the Family debuts on CBS, a challenging situation-comedy, or sitcom, that cast a bright light on the social issues of the day. Unlike programs from the 1950s and 1960s, Norman Leer's satirical creation commented on what ailed the nation, refusing to gloss over or ignore the ugly side of American society. Similar to All in the Family's commentary on racism, the television show, M*A*S*H, addressed the Vietnam through comedy and drama.

March 31st 1971 – My Lai verdict

A smiling U.S. Lieutenant William Calley and Vietnamese children on the cover of Esquire magazine

In 1968, U.S. soldiers led by Lieutenant William Calley entered the village of My Lai and massacred 300 unarmed civilians, mainly woman, children and elderly. Calley was found guilty of the premeditated killings of 22 them. Sentenced to life, Calley was eventually released in 1974 after multiple appeals.The trial highlighted the rift growing in American opinion of the war.

June 13, 1971 – The Pentagon Papers published

Danial Ellsberg

The New York Times began publishing excerpts of the 7,000-page government study of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers. The document was originally leaked by a former Pentagon employee, Daniel Ellsberg. The U.S. government attempted to prohibit the publication, but the Supreme Court decided, in New York Times Co vs. United States, that the government actions were not justified, but the prior restraint horse was already out of the barn after Ellsberg sent copies of the Pentagon Papers to numerous other news affiliates.

September 5, 1972 – Terror at the Olympics

Terrorist in Munich

Arab terrorists raid the Olympic Village in Munich and hold Israeli athletes hostage. The events unfolded under the spotlight of the world media, and 11 hostages were killed during a botched rescue attempt at the airport.

January 22, 1973 – Roe vs. Wade

Roe vs. Wade protesters

A 7-2 decision by the Supreme Court legalized abortions in the U.S. The fallout from the decision would continue to divide American opinion past the end of the century. Support or opposition for the decision was a touchstone for many seeking political office, and would spark violence, terror attacks and murder.

January 27, 1973 – Paris Peace Accords signed

Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm reuniting with his family

After years of war, the U.S., North and South Vietnam agreed to stop the fighting, ending years of American participation which had begun during the Kennedy administration. American POWs were released and drawdowns of U.S. ground forces began. As the networks broadcast pictures of former prisoners-of-war returning to the home soil, American's assumed their long nightmare in Vietnam was over.

"Burst of Joy," a photo taken of prisoner-of-war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm reuniting with his family, won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in Photography for Associated Press photographer Sal Veder.

February 5, 1974 – Patricia Hearst kidnapped

Patricia Heart

Members of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patricia "Patty" Hearst, the 19-year-old granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst. The young heiress eventually grew to support the cause of the SLA and participated in a bank robbery to help finance the group. Following her arrest, Hearst served two years in prison before having her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter.

August 8, 1974 – A president resigns

A newspaper headline announces Nixon's resignation

Richard Nixon resigns in order to avoid impeachment and prosecution for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

April 30, 1975 – The fall of Saigon

Vietnames refugees climb into a helicopter

Hostilities in Vietnam re-ignited in December of 1974 when North Vietnamese forces invaded South Vietnamese territory. The South Vietnamese president called for U.S. air support to throw back the invasion, but no relief came. Without American support to prop up the government, South Vietnam collapsed, and on in late April, as North Vietnamese forces approached, President Ford insisted on evacuating as many refugees as possible before the last American helicopters finally lifted off from the U.S. embassy in Saigon on April 30th.

July 20, 1976 – Mars landing

Viking I

Viking I lands on Mars. Following the Viking II mission later in 1976, it would be 20 more years before the U.S. space program would return to Mars, as limited government funding would be concentrated on the new Space Shuttle program, which had both civilian and military value.

August 16, 1977 – Death of "the King"

Elvis's grave

Elvis Presley, the "King of Rock 'n' Roll", died at age 42. Though no longer a hit maker, the cult of personality for Presley fostered a lucrative business for his family and estate. However, rumors that Elvis faked his death saturated the American tabloid newspapers for decades.

September 17, 1978 – Camp David Peace Accord signed

Elvis's grave

Following a 12 days of secret talks, Egyptian President Anwar Al Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed an agreement to halt years of conflict between the two nations. The led to normalization of relations and an official peace treaty in 1979. While the accord was an important first step, it would be years before any further progress would be made between Israel and its other Arab neighbors.

November 19, 1978 – Jamestown massacre

Bodies at the Jamestown site

Following the murder of Congressman Leo J. Ryan and four others, Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, and 900 of his followers commit mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

March 28, 1979 – Three Mile Island

Three Mile Island

Three Mile Island becomes the worst nuclear power plant accident in the history of the U.S. Though there were no fatalities, no new reactors were built in the United States after the accident.

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