Fox News' James Rosen considers storing research materials in University's archive collection

Jillian Sandler/Daily Senior Staffer

James Rosen (gray suit) examines artifacts at the Patricia Neal exhibit as NU librarian Benn Joseph (right), the exhibit's curator, relates the stories behind them.

Amy Whyte, Reporter
February 17, 2013 •

Medill alum James Rosen, professionally known as a Washington Correspondent for Fox News, refers to himself personally as a “Beatles freak.”

Rosen (MSJ ‘96) was on campus Friday for the first time since graduating from Medill’s graduate program to look into the possibility of storing research materials that he accumulated while working on his 2008 biography of John Mitchell within the University’s archive collection. One of the highlights of his visit, he said, was getting to see the eight Beatles manuscripts that are part of the library’s holdings.

“I held in my hand the hand-scribbled lyrics that Paul McCartney wrote for ‘Eleanor Rigby,’” Rosen said. “It’s an amazing institution. I hope that we can arrange it so my stuff can go there because it will be in very good company.”

Rosen’s work, “The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate,” details the life of John Mitchell, the attorney general under Richard Nixon and the highest ranking U.S. official ever to serve time in jail.

“I grew up in New York in the ‘70s, and the consuming subject of discussion amongst the adults always inevitably was Nixon, even after he had resigned the presidency,” Rosen said. “I burned with this peculiar ambition to be able to talk with the adults on their level about the thing they all seemed to want to talk about, so I developed this fascination with Watergate.”

Rosen said he decided to write a book about the Watergate scandal while working in the National Archives branch then known as the Nixon Presidential Materials during his time as an undergraduate studying political science at Johns Hopkins University.

“I got hooked on working with primary sources, the actual documents themselves, and once that happened, I determined I was going to contribute to the bookcase of books about Watergate,” he said. “I settled on John Mitchell because he was so central to Nixon’s rise and fall ... and yet he had never written a book of his own.”

Rosen’s work on the biography, which took him 17 years to complete, led to the accumulation of a large amount of research materials that currently reside at Rosen’s home in Washington, D.C. He said he needs to find a “permanent home” for his acquisitions.

“(Mitchell) had two criminal trials,” he said. “Each criminal trial had a transcript of 10,000 pages. The Nixon tapes alone are a life’s work. ... I did 250 interviews and in the course of this I accumulated all these tapes and papers and artifacts — what my wife might gingerly refer to as ‘crap.’”

Sarah Pritchard, NU’s dean of libraries, wrote in an email that the University hopes to be able to coordinate an arrangement with Rosen regarding the storage of his materials here.

“We would very much like to have James Rosen deposit his career and research archives with Northwestern University Library,” Pritchard wrote. “He has been interested and has had several conversations about this with us, although he has not given a definitive indication of his plans.”

Kevin Leonard, the University archivist and assistant director of special collections, gave Rosen a tour of the archives, where Rosen’s research materials would potentially be stored, to “give him a sense of our capabilities and the range of our collections.” Rosen also toured the library’s Patricia Neal exhibit Friday, which showcases artifacts that belonged to the NU alumna and actress.

“He’s a very quick-witted guy, and the biography’s a remarkable book,” Leonard said. “It was fun to have him here, and we’re just hoping for the best.”

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