Historical papers of Cronkite Professor Len Downie Jr. available at the Library of Congress
During his 44 years at the Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr. investigated and directed coverage of some of the most important events of the 20th century.
Downie, a Weil family journalism professor at the Walter Cronkite School, was editor of the Post’s investigation into the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, covered the Jonestown massacre in 1978 and , as editor, oversaw the Post’s coverage. of President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, which ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment.
Downie has amassed a wealth of historical documents, notes, manuscripts and other material from these stories, as well as other significant events that occurred during his career as a journalist, from his days as a student in Ohio State University until his move to the Post.
And now these items are available to the public.
The Library of Congress has archived and made available to the public Downie’s papers, an extensive collection of notes, correspondence, public records, unpublished writings, and other material spanning his distinguished career.
Downie started at the Washington Post in 1964, rising from trainee to investigative reporter, local and national editor, London correspondent, managing editor, and then running the paper as editor from 1991 to 2008. Under his management, The Post has won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper under a single editor.
The Library of Congress contacted Downie about his papers about five years ago, but Downie wanted to finish his memoir, “All About the Story: News, Power, Politics and The Washington Post,” before donating any articles. .
The library maintains a manuscript section which includes collections of persons of interest with the aim of preserving their work and life stories.
“It was an honor for the Library of Congress to want my material. It’s a privilege,” Downie said. “I discovered a lot of things that I didn’t know I had.”
A library historian met with Downie and reviewed the documents to see what was most interesting, eventually taking most of his articles.
Downie said his collection was already sorted as he used most of the material to write his memoir.
“They said I was much more organized than most people they meet,” he said.
The documents include the original Watergate scandal police report, as well as reporter Bob Woodward’s notes from the preliminary hearing for the men arrested at the Watergate complex. Downie also submitted the manifesto written by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
Other documents include a script for “The Post,” the 2017 film about Post editor Katherine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers detailing US involvement in Vietnam, with Downie serving as a consultant For the movie ; notes from his coverage of the Jonestown Massacre; and documents from meetings and retreats that provide insight into the journal and its operations.
There are also interview transcripts for his book, “The News About the News”, with Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, who were once the main anchors for the three major television networks.
Downie, who taught at the Cronkite School for 13 years, said he was grateful for the opportunity to share this important historical information with a wider audience.
“It’s important for me to do this,” he said.