Bob Woodward

- Zach Schonfeld


Forget Congress. Learn to do investigat­ive journalism. And you might as well study with one of the only living people who really did help oust a president: Bob Woodward. He’s best known for his work covering the Watergate revelation­s for The Washington Post with reporting partner Carl Bernstein (45 years later, they remain good friends). Woodward, still a Post employee, is now spilling his secrets by teaching a Masterclas­s (an online Masterclas­ workshop) on reporting. The timing couldn’t be better: Trump’s various scandals, coupled with movies like The Post, have awakened a national interest in investigat­ive journalism, and he is historical­ly well-suited to offer insight. (Woodward says Meryl Streep plays his former Post publisher, Katharine Graham, “superbly.”)

But he would chasten you for approachin­g the work with a political agenda or for not paying attention. In one lesson, the 74-year-old Woodward has this advice for journalist­s conducting interviews: “Shut up…and just listen.”

You’ve described the Trump presidency as being a “test” for the news media. How are we doing?

First of all, journalist­s can always do better, myself at the top of the list. I don’t think journalism is failing in the Trump era, but we have a lot of work to do. A number of reporters have become emotionall­y unhinged, one way or the other. Look at MSNBC or Fox, continuall­y denigratin­g Trump or praising him. The answer is in the middle. It’s important to keep personal politics out. Direct the emotion at doing more work.

Any big career regrets?

Janet Cooke famously made up a story for the Post that won a Pulitzer Prize—about an alleged 8-year-old who didn’t exist—and I was one of her editors. I should have spotted it. And I was not aggressive enough at looking at the evidence of weapons of mass destructio­n before the Iraq War. I wrote stories saying there’s no smoking gun evidence, and I should have realized if you don’t have smoking gun evidence, you don’t have hard evidence. If you don’t have hard evidence, you really don’t have it.

How would President Nixon have used Twitter?

[ Laughs] Easier to describe the creation of the universe! He probably would have delegated it. In a sense, his secret tapes are his tweets, and they’re appalling in the revelation of abusive power and criminalit­y.—

“It’s important to keep personal politics out of reporting. Direct the emotion at doing more work.”

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