Oct. 4, 2007
Compiled by Michelle Davey
Journalist Bob Woodward's Ohio University visit on Oct. 3 was more than just a public lecture. Here's part of a conversation Washington Post journalist Woodward had with students in a communication law class on Wednesday.
Student: How accurate was the movie "All the President's Men," and will you comment on the missing editor, Barry Sussman?
Woodward: The movie is incredibly accurate. I was saying earlier that I had not seen the movie for 25 years until two summers ago. My wife and I took our 9-year-old daughter to NYU, where they have the film festival showing the movie… After it was over, I said (to my daughter), "Dianna, what did you think?" She was raised in Washington, so she talks like a policy. So, she said, "A: The guy playing you doesn't look like you at all. B: Boring, boring, boring."
Is it boring? In a way, yes, because all we're doing is chasing down names and numbers.
Student: I'm interested in your thoughts on bloggers as journalists and the Josh Wolf case. (Wolf, a video blogger, was jailed after refusing to turn over a film of political protests to a federal grand jury.)
Woodward: I think bloggers are great. I think the first amendment applies to everyone. Sometimes their information is stunningly unreliable. I don't think the FBI should put anybody in jail for withholding (such) information. I don't think the FBI should be using journalists or bloggers to get their information.
Student: Can you draw a comparison between the relationship between the press and the government today compared to when you were reporting on Watergate?
Woodward: Well, when we were reporting Watergate, I remember we did one story in the middle of October 1972 about Nixon's (appointment) secretary being one of the Watergate conspirators and hiring people to sabotage and spy on the Democratic candidates. That day, Nixon's press secretary came out to the podium and denounced us for one half hour. I was 29 years old. That gets your attention. The response of the editors was to keep working, because we believed our sources.
That's the business. Maybe it's going to get a little rough. Maybe somebody's going to be dropping subpoenas on you, but you just need to forge ahead. I think it's the same now.
Student: Would you say, as time goes on, (that) your skepticism of the government has lessened because of the doors that opened after you broke Watergate?
Woodward: Maybe some doors are more open, but I think more doors are closed. Yes, I am skeptical of the government.
Student: What did you think of Robert Redford?
Woodward: He was very serious and very dedicated. They worked hard to make that movie accurate.
Student: What do you think are some of the biggest problems facing the news media today?
Woodward: Be patient. When we were working on Watergate, or when I did these books, we would have a long time; weeks, months, years. When you're working in a newsroom today it looks like you have stories that incrementally advance something that is going on. Everyone wants to instantly get more news.
... A couple of years ago, during the Kobe Bryant sexual allegations, the anchor at CNN went to the reporter, (who) said, "I'm here in Colorado, the courthouse is behind me. Kobe Bryant won't talk, his lawyers won't talk, the prosecutors won't talk. I know nothing ..."
Does anyone know what a bacon cooler is? It's when someone is eating their breakfast, and they have the bacon on the fork, and they are bringing it up to their mouths, and the story is so great that the bacon just sits on the fork and cools. Suppose there were bacon coolers regularly, and we were telling people things that were interesting and relevant and serious. We are all in one serious business: living. I think serious really matters.