Woodward, Bernstein Say Trust Is Key to Reporting
|Bob Woodward (left) and Carl Bernstein during a light moment of the discussion. (Photo by Lisa Helfert)
By Catherine Matacic
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The men who spent the last 30 years protecting the
of "Deep Throat," the source who helped bring down the Nixon White
Wednesday that the key to better reporting is still trust between
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting on the Watergate
won a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post, told an audience of 850 at
University of Maryland that good journalism is still going on today. But
Bernstein said that there is also more of "both the best and the worst.
"We go around shouting and screaming so often when we really ought to
conducting a conversation and interviewing. People start to look at us,
unreasonably, as mad dogs," Bernstein said.
He criticized what he called a tendency toward "gotcha" journalism
Watergate, although neither he nor Woodward would say their reporting was
But the result is a culture in which "baseball managers are the only
public figures who routinely tell the truth," said Bernstein, who is now
contributing editor at Vanity Fair.
Bernstein and Woodward, who is now an assistant managing editor at The
Post, appeared Wednesday at the university's Norman and Florence Brody
Foundation Public Policy Forum to discuss how Watergate and government
in the wake of Sept. 11 have affected reporting.
Woodward said "a reporter is an outsider and loves living on the outside.
"Your job is to hold the government accountable and close the gap
what's going on and what's being told by the government," Woodward said.
But both men said that job is sometimes overshadowed by the desire to get
Woodward compared that instinct to the advice he got on deadline one day from
former Post Managing Editor Howard Simons, who said "you can't
understand a man
in an afternoon."
"We've set up a system where the expectation is . . . we're not just
to tell you about a man in an afternoon, we're going to tell you about
in an afternoon. You can't," Woodward said.
Former Post editor Haynes Johnson, who joined the pair on the panel,
the reporting that led to the Watergate story was a "textbook
shoe-leather reporting. Woodward and Bernstein agreed.
"What we did was a very basic kind of traditional nonglamorous
that works," Bernstein said. "Good reporting is the best obtainable
the truth. That no longer is the bottom line in our business."
Woodward said reporters "have to have the patience and the time to go
sources and go back and go back again." He added, "The fundamental relationship has to be one of trust -- developing
unofficial sources" who do not mislead reporters or compromise national
security. That is as true today, when news of attacks on Iraq is being
news organizations, as it was 30 years ago, he said.
The forum was sponsored by the university's School of Public Affairs
the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, whose students appeared on
ask questions of the panel. Segments of the show will air on PBS at a
|Bob Woodward (left) and Carl Bernstein at a reception before the panel discussion. (Photo by Lisa Helfert)
First-year graduate student Diana Alvear crashed a pre-forum
to see if she could meet Woodward and Bernstein. Alvear, a devotee who
the President's Men" at age 16, later said she was surprised at how
Bernstein appeared to be.
"It's quite a contrast to Woodward, because he's still in the newsroom
sees the good," she said. "I just hope I can incorporate a little bit of
Woodward and a little bit of Bernstein in the reporting I do. It's
get both perspectives."
report graphics and links by Reginald Hart
2002 University of Maryland College of
Top of Page | Home Page