October 31, 2012
Documents that Changed the World: An 18 1/2-minute presidential mystery
For the latest installment of his Documents that Changed the World podcast series, Joe Janes chose a topic familiar to Americans of a certain age: the 18 ½-minute gap in President Richard Nixon’s White House tapes.
Janes helps things along by applying the definition of “document” loosely. In this case, it’s a document known for, well, not existing.
“It’s an example of something that isn’t, that nonetheless grabbed the imagination,” Janes said.
Documents that Changed the World
A podcast series by Joe Janes
UW Information School
The Watergate scandal had by then sparked growing disenchantment with government and political leaders, he noted, and the silence — actually, some buzzing here and there — fed that imagination almost better than anything Nixon and his cronies might have said.
“Silence isn’t always golden,” Janes said. “And in this case it deepened the mystery and thus the mystique and the mistrust, which is still with us, fed by more recent goings-on in the Oval Office and beyond.
“It also — and I didn’t know this — gave rise to entirely new techniques in forensic audio investigation that became state of the art and even standards for future work.”
Janes said he was in high school when Watergate happened and was surprised at “how vividly all of this came back, the names and events of that few years.”
It says something about the durability of the mystery. “There are still people trying to figure out what happened to the tape itself and what may have been on there, hence the most recent investigative stuff in the last year or two. Just like the Grassy Knoll and Amelia Earhart — we just can’t let it go.”
This is the seventh podcast in the Documents that Changed the World series. Janes continues to research and record new installments.