My print project on Watergate proved to be rewarding in a number of ways. First and foremost, for someone who is extremely fascinated by this particular scandal, examining some of the public’s comments about it on various blogs and news websites challenged me to re-evaluate some of my own ideas about this important moment in U.S. history. It was really interesting for me to see how the public’s ideas about Watergate compare and contrast to what scholars say about it. (For instance, the convention wisdom among many scholars is that Watergate continues to affect U.S. politics today, but a large number of people made thoughtful comments online about why they think it doesn’t really matter anymore.) Before I started this project, I assumed that most Americans agreed with this conventional view because, to me, the numberous ways in which Watergate continues to touch politics are quite obvious. But the comments that various people made online made me realize areas where I need to strengthen my argument in order to defend my belief, which will be quite helpful for my future research.
Additionally, this project (and this course in general) have made me think about what qualifies as a “legitimate” historical source. It made me realize that as I continue my research, it is perfectly acceptable (and even beneficial) to count blogs and other digital media as quality sources. Especially since blogs, Facebook and Twitter have essentially replaced traditional journals and letters as people’s means of self-reflection and communication with others, the Internet can provide a wealth of insights that historians may not otherwise be able to find and utilize.
As far as my project itself goes, I can’t pinpoint what I would change about it. It is not a perfect project by any means, but it satisfied my goal of learning a little bit about how public memory compares to scholarly memory. I don’t think that I’ll carry on with this particular project but, as noted above, it will certainly help me with further research, even if only indirectly. I do think this project could have been stronger if I figured out how to tighten up my methodology. To find comments, I did a google search and combed through the top twenty websites that popped up so that I wasn’t simply scouring hundreds of sites, looking for the one or two comments that pertained to my project. In some ways, this method still seemed inadequate and faulty. But I still think it was sufficient enough to help me fulfill the goals I had for this project. Overall, I am happy with my paper and think that if I continued working on it and tightened it up, some of my findings could potentially be useful for digital scholars as well as historians.