R.B. Brenner

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.

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.