Bob Schieffer: How I bungled Watergate

CBS/AP

(CBS News) The weekend the Watergate break-in came to light, I had a slightly different take than Woodward and Bernstein. I tried to get out of town before I got assigned to the story!

The reason was my boss Bill Small had just assigned me as part of the CBS team covering the Democratic and Republican conventions, both of which were being held in Miami - the assignment I had dreamed of all my life.

But I was still fairly junior at the Washington bureau, and I had the sinking feeling that Small would pull me off the conventions and assign me to the break-in, a story that made absolutely no sense to me.

Why would anyone break into a political headquarters? What secrets could possibly be found there? That's where you kept the yard signs and such.

Someone said it was just a bunch of crazies, and that was good enough for me. Why would anyone - especially anyone as far ahead in the polls as Nixon was at that point - break in to a campaign headquarters?

So I laid low, got on down to Miami, had a great summer, and that led to a long career covering politics here.

Still, I had made the WORST mistake a reporter can make. I just ASSUMED it didn't amount to anything.

Better, as Woodward and Bernstein showed us, to check it out - which they did, and what journalism is all about.

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    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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