Bob Woodward

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.”

Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, will speak at the Belo Center for New Media on Wednesday afternoon.

Few people embody true journalistic intentions more so than Bob Woodward. The impact of his work when covering the infamous Watergate scandal inspired a new era of investigative reporting. This Wednesday, Woodward will participate in a speaking event at the Belo Center for New Media.

This event is part of the continuing series of guest speakers celebrating the centennial of the School of Journalism. The discussion will be a Q&A session between Woodward and R.B. Brenner, the director of the School of Journalism.

Brenner said, even though much has changed in the American political realm in the last 40 years, Woodward has remained a constant and is able to give a unique perspective on a variety of issues.

“Bob Woodward is incredibly high on the list, if not atop it, of the most influential journalists in my lifetime,” Brenner said. “Over the past half-century, he’s carried out journalism’s most essential functions — to find out important information that the public otherwise wouldn’t know and to hold the powerful accountable.”

Brenner hopes to discuss a variety of topics — from general questions about changes in journalism and transparency within the presidency to more specific questions about current events.

Woodward has been involved off and on with UT’s journalism department over the years. He and Brenner were colleagues at the Washington Post years ago, and he also hired the journalism school’s previous director, Glenn Frankel, to work for the Post. The last time Woodward spoke at UT, he was accompanied by Carl Bernstein, his partner on the Watergate report, and actor Robert Redford, who played Woodward in the film adaptation of his book “All the President’s Men.” 

Woodward plans to address the lack of transparency between the press and the presidency from his beginnings as a journalist with the Nixon administration to the present. 

“The bottom line for me is we do not know enough about what is going on,” Woodward said. “We still have to worry about secret government and that the message managers in Congress and the White House and businesses are better trained with more energy into it and to try to shape what’s going on. And that’s their job, but it’s not always the truth, so reporters have to dig.”

Woodward emphasized that it is important for journalists to pick the “hard topics.” 

“We may be going through one of those hinges in history where big decisions have been made that set the country on a path that is defining,” Woodward said.

According to Wanda Cash, the associate director of the journalism school, the event is timely in light of Obama’s decision to send strike forces to defeat the Islamic State group. Citing Woodward’s extensive knowledge on how Bush handled the war in Iraq and Nixon’s ending of the war in Vietnam, Cash said that Woodward’s perspective provides an arc in the story. 

“Woodward is important to us because [his] and Carl Bernstein’s reporting on Watergate inspired a whole generation of investigative reporters and set so many people on the path to reporting because they were inspired to learn what a couple of intrepid rookies could do,” Cash said.