45th Anniversary of Nixon's Resignation Finds Bob Woodward Critical of the Media
This is not a blog about politics. It’s about how journalism has changed.
August 8th was the 45th anniversary of the resignation of President Richard Nixon. That resignation was prompted by revelations of Oval Office criminality associated with the Watergate break-in, a story first reported by BOB WOODWARD and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. The anniversary prompted me to watch All the Presidents Men on Netflix.
What amazed me was just how different journalism was in the pre-internet age. It’s so easy to forget how journalism was practiced. Knocking on doors and making endless phone calls for interviews; doing all the leg work was exhausting. As I watched the film I was struck by the extraordinary effort it took to go back and forth verifying sources and digging for more information. Certainly, the process is no different today for mainstream journalists - but the new tools have completely changed how the work is being done.
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As Woodward has said numerous times in interviews he’s given and speeches I’ve seen him deliver; a face-to-face interview offers the reporter clues and opportunities that don’t happen in any other encounter. Most times these days interview questions are submitted via email – sometimes there’s even “the intimacy of the telephone,” as Bob puts it, tongue-in-cheek.
Journalists in the Internet age have gotten lazy. Bob confessed that he recognized he had become lazy too, and vowed to ramp up the old-style journalistic work ethic and go knocking on doors for his latest book, Fear. He made his point by telling the story of calling one source at home at 11:00 PM at night. This person was being particularly hard to pin down for an interview. When Bob called and asked about getting together for an interview, the source told him definitely and to call the office. Bob recognized the stall tactic and said “how about now?” “Now?” the source asked. “Yes,” Bob said, “I’m five minutes from your house.” “How do you even know where I live!” the source exclaimed. Woodward went over and stayed until daybreak – walking away with the information he’d hoped to secure. It was old-fashioned investigative journalism at work.
The pursuit of the truth is still hard work and the rush-to-judgment mood of the internet age has amped up the pressure on the media to come up with something scoop-worthy. In his interviews and speeches, Woodward constantly people that the story is always unfolding. One of his favorite ways to make the point is the story behind the pardoning of Richard Nixon, which at the time he and Carl Bernstein felt was the final act of deceit – but years later turned out to be something quite different. It's a sobering and illustrative tale.
SUPPLEMENTAL READING: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: BOB WOODWARD ON "FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE and BOB WOODWARD SPEAKER PAGE
To that point, Woodward takes issue with the way the media is reporting on Trump in particular. He implores the media to not make the Donald Trump reporting personal. His advice is to aggressively follow the story wherever it leads without an agenda and report the facts. As he says in his exceptional online MasterClass on journalism, “Everyone has their own version of the truth. But there are facts!” The job of the reporter is to focus on the facts.
About Tony D'Amelio
Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Geoff Colvin, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Beau Lotto, Nicole Malachowski, David Meerman Scott, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.