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Bob Woodward, associate editor of the Washington Post, speaks at the Belo Center for New Media on Wednesday afternoon. Woodward spoke of his experiences throughout his career in journalism, including breaking the Watergate Scandal.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Bob Woodward, one of the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal in 1972, talked about his experiences as a journalist Wednesday at the Belo Center for New Media.

Woodward, now the associate editor of the Washington Post, gained prominence following his coverage of the scandal with Carl Bernstein, in which President Richard Nixon attempted to hide evidence of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s offices in Washington, D.C., Nixon
eventually resigned.

Looking back on his experience since the scandal, Woodward said the changing environment for the newspaper industry is something he thinks can be reversed.

“The answer is, ultimately, when you’re in the business, you have to make the product better,” Woodward said. “We used to call them ‘bacon coolers,’ when a story in the paper was so good that when you’re eating breakfast, and you get the bacon on the fork, it never gets to your mouth because the story is so good.”

In a time when social media is often used to spread information, Woodward said it should not be a substitute for accurate and effective reporting.

“If you are spending the time tweeting, you aren’t spending that time reporting,” Woodward said. “Reporting is something where you have to develop relationships and trust with human beings, and you have to talk to people.”

Journalism professor Tracy Dahlby said he agreed with Woodward about the damages of social media, but said that, for people who care about journalism, those distractions would not completely hinder the process.

“I think that there is an issue with social media and digital technologies that we have because they tend to split our focus and distract us,” Dahlby said. “I do believe as Bob Woodward said, all of that is surmountable if you are really interested in a story and really interested in getting to the bottom of it.”

Woodward said the Washington Post ran a story about an 8-year-old boy that was being drugged with heroin by the mother’s boyfriend. After having won a Pulitzer Prize for the story, it was discovered the writer falsified the story.

Woodward said he still considers it to be the biggest mistake of his career.

“Where was I as a human being, worried about this 8-year-old?” Woodward said. “The first thing I should have done, were that to happen now, I’d say, ‘Fine, good story,’ and then I would get a doctor and a cop and go to that address to rescue the kid.”

Wanda Cash, associate director of the School of Journalism, said student journalists have much to learn from Woodward and Bernstein.

“You have to go where the story is; the story is not going to come to you,” Cash said. “What Woodward and Bernstein did after Watergate was to pound that pavement and knock on doors.”

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

R.B. Brenner, deputy director of the journalism program at Stanford University, will be the new director of the School of Journalism in the Moody College of Communication starting in August, according to Moody college dean Roderick Hart. 

In May 2013, the journalism school’s current director Glenn Frankel announced he would retire to work as an author full-time. Hart said Brenner’s official paperwork was signed Wednesday. “We had a search committee that had a bunch of people on it,” Hart said. “When they said he was an applicant, I was very pleased. When he came to campus he just kind of wowed everybody.”

Brenner, who worked in a number of editing positions at The Washington Post, said one of the biggest challenges facing modern journalism is the rapid development of new technology. 

“The more technology speeds us forward, the more you also have big issues between some of the real traditional values of journalism,” Brenner said. “You’ve seen that in the last few years, in the coverage of the Newtown shooting and the Boston Marathon bombings, with this constant competition between speed, accuracy and credibility. News outlets have to ask themselves, ‘How important is it to be first if it ends up damaging your reputation?’”

Brenner said he has ideas for potential changes at the journalism school in mind, but he is not ready to share them until he has a chance to familiarize himself with the school.

“I think it’s premature,” Brenner said. “I am a journalist and reporter at my core. The way I think about anything is, ‘Would it be smart for a reporter?’ I think it would be bad for me, from several miles away, to make claims on best practices for the school.” 

Frankel, who also worked at The Washington Post and Stanford before joining UT, said Brenner’s academic and professional experience will be valuable when he becomes the director. 

“I think that people felt strongly that we needed someone with a real solid grounding in professional journalism because of the huge changes transforming news at every level,” Frankel said. “He’s just a very warm, communicative person who listens carefully, who respects students, who really loves students and then is collaborative.”

In January, The Daily Texan reported Texas Student Media, the umbrella organization that manages a number of student-produced media properties, including Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX and the Texan, would be moving under the domain of the Moody college. According to Hart, this move has not yet officially taken place. 

Brenner said he is unsure of what role Texas Student Media will play in the journalism school moving forward. 

“What’s really important for student media, first and foremost, is for it to be independent, that students are running student media,” Brenner said. “I don’t think the days of anything being print alone exist anymore. It’s essential for [publications] to understand the specific needs and wants of their audience.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Cobler.

Clarification: This story has been updated from its original version. Brenner was an editor at The Washington Post.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials.

The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.

Verizon is handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report was confirmed Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Former NSA employee William Binney told The Associated Press that he estimates the agency collects records on 3 billion phone calls each day.

The NSA and FBI appear to be looking even wider under a clandestine program code-named "PRISM" that was revealed in a story posted late Thursday by The Washington Post. PRISM gives the U.S. government access to email, documents, audio, video, photographs and other data belonging to foreigners on foreign soil who are under investigation, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper said it reviewed a confidential roster of companies and services participating in PRISM. The companies included AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Skype, YouTube and Paltalk.

In statements, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo said they only provide the government with user data required under the law. (Google runs YouTube and Microsoft owns Skype.) AOL and Paltalk didn't immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.

The NSA isn't getting customer names or the content of phone conversations under the Verizon court order, but that doesn't mean the information can't be tied to other data coming in through the PRISM program to look into people's lives, according to experts.

Like pieces of a puzzle, the bits and bytes left behind from people's electronic interactions can be cobbled together to draw conclusions about their habits, friendships and preferences using data-mining formulas and increasingly powerful computers.

It's all part of a phenomenon known as "Big Data," a catchphrase increasingly used to describe the science of analyzing the vast amount of information collected through mobile devices, Web browsers and check-out stands. Analysts use powerful computers to detect trends and create digital dossiers about people.

The Obama administration and lawmakers privy to the NSA's surveillance aren't saying anything about the collection of the Verizon customers' records beyond that it's in the interest of national security. The sweeping court order covers the Verizon records of every mobile and landline phone call from April 25 through July 19, according to The Guardian.

It's likely the Verizon phone records are being matched with an even broader set of data, said Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo.

"My sense is they are looking for network patterns," she said. "They are looking for who is connected to whom and whether they can put any timelines together. They are also probably trying to identify locations where people are calling from."

Under the court order, the Verizon records include the duration of every call but not the locations of mobile calls.

The location information is particularly valuable for cloak-and-dagger operations like the one the NSA is running, said Cindy Cohn, a legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that has been fighting the government's collection of personal phone records since 2006. The foundation is currently suing over the government's collection of U.S. citizens' communications in a case that dates back to the administration of President George W. Bush.

"It's incredibly invasive," Cohn said. "This is a consequence of the fact that we have so many third parties that have accumulated significant information about our everyday lives."

It's such a rich vein of information that U.S. companies and other organizations now spend more than $2 billion each year to obtain third-party data about individuals, according to Forrester Research. The data helps businesses target potential customers. Much of this information is sold by so-called data brokers such as Acxiom Corp., a Little Rock, Ark., company that maintains extensive files about the online and offline activities of more than 500 million consumers worldwide.

The digital floodgates have opened during the past decade as the convenience and allure of the Internet —and sleek smartphones— have made it easier and more enjoyable for people to stay connected wherever they go.

"I don't think there has been a sea change in analytical methods as much as there has been a change in the volume, velocity and variety of information and the computing power to process it all," said Gartner analyst Douglas Laney.

In a sign of the NSA's determination to vacuum up as much data as possible, the agency has built a data center in Bluffdale, Utah that is five times larger than the U.S. Capitol —all to sift through Big Data. The $2 billion center has fed perceptions that some factions of the U.S. government are determined to build a database of all phone calls, Internet searches and emails under the guise of national security. The Washington Post's disclosure that both the NSA and FBI have the ability to burrow into computers of major Internet services will likely heighten fears that U.S. government's Big Data is creating something akin to the ever-watchful Big Brother in George Orwell's "1984" novel.

"The fact that the government can tell all the phone carriers and Internet service providers to hand over all this data sort of gives them carte blanche to build profiles of people they are targeting in a very different way than any company can," Khatibloo said.

In most instances, Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo are taking what they learn from search requests, clicks on "like" buttons, Web surfing activity and location tracking on mobile devices to figure out what their users like and divine where they are. It's all in aid of showing users ads about products likely to pique their interest at the right time. The companies defend this kind of data mining as a consumer benefit.

Google is trying to take things a step further. It is honing its data analysis and search formulas in an attempt to anticipate what an individual might be wondering about or wanting.

Other Internet companies also use Big Data to improve their services. Video subscription service Netflix takes what it learns from each viewer's preferences to recommend movies and TV shows. Inc. does something similar when it highlights specific products to different shoppers visiting its site.

The federal government has the potential to know even more about people because it controls the world's biggest data bank, said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor who recently stepped down as the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection director.

Before leaving the FTC last year, Vladeck opened an inquiry into the practices of Acxiom and other data brokers because he feared that information was being misinterpreted in ways that unfairly stereotyped people. For instance, someone might be classified as a potential health risk just because he or she bought products linked to increased chance of heart attack. The FTC inquiry into data brokers is still open.

"We had real concerns about the reliability of the data and unfair treatment by algorithm," Vladeck said.

Vladeck stressed he had no reason to believe that the NSA is misinterpreting the data it collects about people. He finds some comfort in The Guardian report that said the Verizon order had been signed by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Ronald Vinson.

The NSA "differs from a commercial enterprise in the sense that there are checks in the judicial system and in Congress," Vladeck said. "If you believe in the way our government is supposed to work, then you should have some faith that those checks are meaningful. If you are skeptical about government, then you probably don't think that kind of oversight means anything."

When Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior U.S. Senator from Texas, retires at the end of this legislative session, we will have a front-row seat to a marked shift in the Texas Republican Party. Likely to replace her is Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who currently leads his opponent, Democrat Paul Sadler, by nearly a 2-1 margin. While both the senator and her likely successor are Republicans, a comparison of Hutchison’s legislative record with Cruz’s goals highlights the contrast between them.

Hutchison, a former UT cheerleader who graduated at 19 and obtained a law degree five years later, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1993. During her 19 years in that office, Hutchison stood with the GOP on most issues, voting with the majority of Republicans almost 90 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. She invariably supported the oil and gas industry at the expense of environmental protection, and voted for an outright constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. She also voted to exclude sexual orientation from hate crimes criteria. However, her breaks with recent trends in the Republican Party show that she isn’t as through-and-through conservative as many of her colleagues.

Hutchison’s voting record presents a mixed bag on the issue of abortion. She consistently voted for strict restrictions on abortion and contraceptives, but supported Roe v. Wade and repeatedly voted against efforts to prohibit the practice altogether. In a 1993 Senate debate, she argued for restricted but legal abortions up to the third trimester, saying, “I’m not for abortion … The question is, should I make that decision for you, and that’s where I come down on the other side.” In 2003, she told the Dallas Morning News, “I’ve always said that I think that women should have the ability to make that decision, even if I disagree with it.”

The most striking departure from others in her party, however, was her openness toward government spending. In contrast to the Republican holy war on earmarked funds, a major talking point for some Republicans, Hutchison unabashedly sought a great deal of pork barrel government money for her home state. In 2008 and 2009 alone, she claimed almost half a billion dollars in earmarks for spending in Texas and was outspoken in her support of the practice. “I’m proud of being able to garner Texans’ fair share of their tax dollars,” she said in 2009.
Hutchison has also enthusiastically supported federal funding for higher education in Texas. Her website proudly proclaims that  she “has worked to move Texas from sixth in the nation in federal research funding to third.”

That friendly view toward government spending combined with her relatively moderate stance on abortion crippled Hutchison in a 2010 run for Texas governor. Although she was the early frontrunner by a large margin, incumbent governor Rick Perry succeeded in portraying her as a pro-choice, liberal spender and himself as a fiscally and socially conservative alternative to retain the governor’s office for another term. Hutchison had difficulty adapting to an electorate that had turned from predominantly moderate “country club Republicans” to right-wing ideologues, and she lost big. That defeat was more or less the end of her career on the national stage.

Two years later, Hutchison has confirmed her long-rumored retirement and opened up her seat for the next generation. Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz is the overwhelming favorite after his defeat of the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in the Republican primary. Cruz, by finding room to the right of the Republican leadership in one of the reddest states in the country, represents a new breed of conservative. Unlike Hutchison, he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade, calling it a “shameful decision,” and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. He also proposes the complete elimination of the Department of Education, which would end federal financial aid for college students. Furthermore, Texas can kiss the gravy train of government spending it enjoyed under Hutchison goodbye. In a recent interview with Texas Monthly, Cruz said, “I am absolutely opposed to earmarks. When 435 members of Congress and all 100 members of the Senate go to Washington and view their jobs as feeding at the public trough, that’s how we bankrupt our country, and I don’t think Texans want their senator to be part of that.”

Being a fiscal conservative is one thing, and earmarked spending can certainly be taken too far, but completely cutting off federal support for states and students in a weak economy makes no sense.

It’s a shame that Hutchison is retiring, because she’s the kind of senator Texas needs right now. As she rides into the sunset, a less open-minded generation of Republicans takes her place. That means all the federal spending that brought jobs and growth to Texas, and much-needed help to students, will soon be a thing of the past. That should be cause for concern.

A Washington Post reporter’s decision to share the rough draft of a story with UT media officials before publication has prompted the newspaper to revise its reporting policy to discourage such acts in the future.

The Texas Observer reported Tuesday that Post reporter Daniel de Vise allowed UT media officials to review his story and suggest critical edits — some of which he adopted — before its publication. Although some journalists called de Vise’s actions unethical when news of his actions hit the web, the Post stood behind him. Two days later, the Post is singing a different tune and announced Thursday that in response to the issues raised, it will enact new policies to discourage sharing stories with sources without editorial approval.

Published on the front page of The Washington Post March 14, de Vise’s story, titled “Trying to assess learning gives colleges their own test anxiety,” examined the trend of standardized testing in higher education and used UT as a prime example.

“Our current policy doesn’t prohibit a reporter from sharing a story draft with a source, but we intend to tighten it to ensure that such instances are rare without dispensation from a top editor,” said Marcus Brauchli, Washington Post executive editor, in an e-mail to the Poynter Institute school of journalism.

Brauchli detailed these policy changes in a memo to all Washington Post staffers Thursday afternoon, according to In the memo, Brauchli said while some reporters covering a specific topic may share sections of their story for accuracy, entire stories should never be sent to sources.

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Gene Burd, associate journalism professor and former Houston Chronicle reporter, said journalists do not share articles with sources.

“You just don’t do it,” Burd said.

It is always unethical to share a full draft of a story with a source prior to publication, Burd said, adding he was shocked to hear of a Washington Post reporter doing so.

“There’s nothing wrong with rechecking and checking and cross-checking, but to provide a story or a text and get the source’s approval before you submit it, or certainly publish it, is just verboten,” he said.

According to the Texas Observer, in a March 5 e-mail to Tara Doolittle, UT’s director of media outreach, de Vise wrote, “Everything here is negotiable. Help me out by not circulating this material very far and by stressing that it is an unpublished draft. If you or anyone at the university has any concerns about it, I implore you to direct them to me. I’m one of a very few reporters here who send drafts to sources!”

Doolittle, along with UT media relations director Gary Susswein, reviewed the story and sent it back to de Vise with their edits. In the e-mails, Susswein said the story was bad and told Doolittle both of them needed to go through it with a heavy red pen. Doolittle told the Texan she checked the draft because the reporter offered and it provided for an extra measure to ensure accuracy. Both Susswein and Doolittle worked as journalists before they assumed their current positions at UT.

Susswein was out of town and not available for comment.

David Bassine, advertising junior and marketing director for Texas New Media, an organization promoting multimedia use in journalism, said the sharing of an article with its source seems unethical because it could inadvertently compromise the integrity of the piece.

“I‘m sure that it could influence something,” he said.

Wanda Cash, associate director of the school of journalism, agreed, telling the Texan she would only condone sharing even a portion of an article with a source in extreme cases to ensure technical accuracy.

“I was in the journalism business for 25 years before I came to UT to teach journalism and I’ve never, in my professional career and now in my academic career, condoned any kind of prior review of stories by news sources,” she said.

Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute journalism professor, said while the practice of sharing an article with a source is controversial, it is not unheard of, and helpful in certain cases.

“It’s best to do it in a way that the source understands that you are doing it simply for accuracy sake and that you’re not turning over editing to the source,” she said in an interview.

McBride said in this case the reporter’s e-mails do seem inappropriate, however, but she believes his intentions were fair.

“If I had been his editor, I would have instructed him to word his e-mails in a way so that he could have articulated his desire for independence as well as his desire for accuracy,” she said.

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post from 1991 to 2008, speaks about The Watergate Scandal and the state of journalism in Studio 6A following a screening of “All the President’s Men.” With Downie as executive editor, The Washington Post won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, including one for exposing the negligent conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

Despite technologies that have been recently introduced to journalism, basic reporting techniques have remained the same, and any one reporter can make a difference, said Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post.

Downie discussed his experience working at The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal after a Tuesday screening of the film “All the President’s Men,” hosted by the School of Journalism. The film, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, is based on the novel by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward which recounts their journalistic endeavors during their investigation of the Watergate scandal.

Downie worked for the Washington Post for 44 years and served as executive editor for 17 of those years. While he was executive editor, the Post won 25 Pulitzer Prizes. Downie now serves as vice president at large for The Washington Post.

Downie said the reporting techniques used in the film are the same techniques some of the best reporters use now, which includes working sources from the bottom up, making cold phone calls to see what information can be found and knocking unexpectedly on doors of possible sources.

“The film is about how journalists do journalism,” said Glenn Frankel, director of the School of Journalism. “It is the best American film ever made about the process of journalism, how reporters make progress, make mistakes, fight and work with each other and struggle with their editor.”

The Watergate political scandal began June 17, 1972, with the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters and the attempted cover-up by the Nixon Administration, Downie said.

Frankel said the film is a prime example of what occurs when politicians abuse power and try to cover it up. He said the public must never assume people in power can be totally trusted because they can become liable to commit abuses with their influence.

Downie said if people are blinded by what’s happening during a scandal, it’s oftentimes hard to find a way out.

“History is a big river. It keeps on going and it’s hard to capture what really happens, but the film does it well,” said photojournalism professor Eli Reed. “It’s a good indication of what can happen if people in the press do something really right.”

The media always needs to be vigilant, independent, evenhanded and energetic in order to find and expose abuses of power, Frankel said.

Printed on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 as: Good reporting still works, former Post editor explains

There’s been debate about what exactly Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants,” is. Is it “a sort-of memoir” as The Washington Post describes it? Or is it, as Entertainment Weekly says, a “genially jumbled memoir-esque collection”? In her New York Times review Janet Maslin says it is not a memoir but a “spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation.” Comic Janeane Garofalo for NPR: “a sort of here’s-what-happened-and-why-I think-this kind of

book.” Huh?

Let’s put this to bed: “Bossypants,” referring to her management style, is not a memoir, essay collection, feminist manifesto or whatever it was Garofalo was trying to say. It is funny. Why does it have to be anything else? If Fey has taught us anything in her career as a celebrated humorist working as the first female head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” the brains behind “Mean Girls” and the star of “30 Rock,” it is that some of the best humor comes from a willingness to laugh at people (including yourself) who take things too seriously.

And while “Bossypants” touches on some serious subjects (body issues, cruel comments, motherhood), the only solid stance Fey takes in her short book is that if life’s challenges are slowly killing you, a sense of humor is going to help you get through it.

There are numerous accounts, the best including her confronting an early puberty (“I knew from commercials that one’s menstrual period was a blue liquid that you poured like laundry detergent onto pads to test their absorbency.”), an inside look of glamorous magazine photo shoots (“THE FUNNEST!”) and how “30 Rock” came to be (“People would stop to watch before realizing we were not ‘Sex and the City,’ when they would leave immediately.”)

Having worked in TV and sketch comedy (and TV about sketch comedy) for most of her life, her comedic style and thinking seems consequently episodic in nature; each individual piece or joke may be hilarious, but taken as a whole, it’s unclear how it’s all supposed to fit together.

It’s a good thing then that in “Bossypants,” she fires off some of the best one-offs in her career. In the chapter “Dear Internet,” she does what few celebrities would have the gall to do: She calls out snarky and sometimes flat-out nasty Internet commenters like Perez Hilton who wrote “she has not a single funny bone in her body.” Part of her reply is: “You know who does have a funny bone in her body? Your mom every night for a dollar.”

Throughout the book, Fey shifts between embarrassing autobiographical storyteller to showbiz insider to relatable dinner conversationalist. And as a comedienne, she knows how to turn a phrase so it hits just the right points of wryness, sarcasm and sanity. An almost 300-page riff on her own life, “Bossypants” is Tina Fey being as true to herself as she’s
ever been.