Bob Woodward


Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward

Robert Upshur "Bob" Woodward (born March 26, 1943) is one of the best-known journalists in the United States, thanks largely to his work in helping uncover the Watergate scandal of President Richard Nixon while working as a reporter for The Washington Post. He has written twelve best-selling nonfiction books and shared in two Pulitzer Prizes.



Woodward was born in Geneva, Illinois, the son of Alfred E. Woodward, a judge. He attended Yale University on a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship, joining Book and Snake and graduating in 1965. Woodward served for five years as a communications officer in the United States Navy, his last year in Washington, D.C. including volunteer work for John Erlenborn, the Republican Congressman from the district in Wheaton, Illinois where he had been raised.

Woodward was discharged from the Navy in August 1970. He had applied to several law schools, but had also applied for a job as a reporter for the Washington Post. Harry Rosenfeld, the paper's metropolitan editor hired him on a two-week trial basis, a tryout which failed due to his complete lack of experience as a journalist. Still interested in becoming a reporter, he got a job with the Montgomery Sentinel. A year after his on-the-job training at the Sentinel, he left that paper and joined The Washington Post in August 1971.

He and colleague Carl Bernstein were assigned to investigate the June 17, 1972 burglary of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in a Washington, D.C. office building called Watergate. Their work, under editor Ben Bradlee, led to uncovering a large number of political "dirty tricks" used by the Nixon re-election committee during his campaign for reelection. Their book about the scandal, All the President's Men became a #1 best-seller and was later turned into a movie. The 1976 film, starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, transformed the reporters into celebrities and inspired a wave of interest in investigative journalism.

The book and movie also led to one of Washington D.C.'s most famous mysteries: the identity of Woodward's secret Watergate informant known as Deep Throat -- a reference to the title of a popular pornographic movie at the time starring Linda Lovelace. Woodward said he would protect Deep Throat's identity until the man died or allowed his name to be revealed. For over 30 years, only Woodward, Bernstein, and Bradlee knew the identity of Deep Throat until he revealed himself to Vanity Fair magazine as former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt in May 2005. Woodward confirmed his identity.

Woodward has continued to write books and report stories for The Washington Post, and serves as an assistant managing editor[1] ( at the paper. He focuses on the presidency, intelligence, and Washington institutions such as the U.S. Supreme Court, The Pentagon, and the Federal Reserve. He has also written about the Hollywood drug culture and the death of comic John Belushi.

In a series of articles published in January 2002, he and Dan Balz described the events at Camp David in the aftermath of September 11. In these they mention the Worldwide Attack Matrix.

Woodward has spent the most time of any journalist with President George W. Bush while in office, interviewing him four times for more than seven hours total. Woodward's most recent two books, Bush at War (2002) and Plan of Attack (2004), are detailed accounts of the Bush presidency, including the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Woodward has a book about his relationship with Felt forthcoming and is at work on another book about the second administration of George W. Bush.


Woodward has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes during his 32 year career. In 1973, The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his and Bernstein's reporting on Watergate. In addition, Woodward was the lead reporter for the Post's articles on the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks that won the National Reporting Pulitzer in 2002. He also was awarded the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency in 2003.

Woodward is widely regarded as one of the top reporters of the last half-century, and has earned trust and accolades from government officials and journalists of all political persuasions. In 2003, Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal called Woodward "the most celebrated journalist of our age." The Weekly Standard called him "the best pure reporter of his generation, perhaps ever." And in 2004 Bob Schieffer of CBS News said Woodward has established himself as the best reporter of our time. He may be the best reporter of all time.

Style and criticism

Woodward uses a distinct approach to writing non-fiction. In preparation, he tries to obtain the maximum amount of information on his subject, through interviews, documents, transcripts, and recordings. He then uses this information to re-create the event in the form of a story with an omniscient narrator, present tense events and dialogue. His books read like fiction novels, and are often very visually descriptive, and feature strong characterization. This style has earned Woodward a wide readership and commercial success, as well as a fair share of literary critics who consider his prose awkward and his approach inappropriate for his subject matter.

Woodward's style makes wide use of background and deep background information from sources, meaning they provide material on the condition that it not be attributable to them. This style has been criticized for encouraging sources to avoid speaking on the record where they can be held more accountable. Some critics say Woodward's style allows the biases and beliefs of his sources to steer the narrative and that those who talk to Woodward are painted more favorably than those who don't. Yet Woodward is famously secretive about naming his sources, and they rarely come forward themselves, so it is often impossible to know with certainty who gave information to Woodward and who did not.

The narrative, reporting-driven style of Woodward's books also draws criticism for rarely making conclusions or passing judgment on the characters and actions that he recounts in such detail. Joan Didion concluded that Woodward writes "books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent."[2] ( Voicing similar concerns, some of Woodward's critics accuse him of abandoning critical inquiry to maintain his access to high-profile political actors. Commentator Christopher Hitchens has accused both Woodward and George F. Will of acting as "stenographer[s] to the rich and powerful." [3] ( Others praise his detached and evenhanded style for allowing readers to absorb the facts and come to their own conclusions. The New York Times Book Review said in 2004 that No reporter has more talent for getting Washingtons inside story and telling it cogently.

Woodward's dual role as newspaper journalist and book author has opened him up to occasional criticism for sitting on information for publication in a book, rather than presenting it sooner when it might affect the events at hand. In The Commanders (1991), for instance, he indicated that Colin Powell had opposed Operation Desert Storm, yet Woodward did not publish this fact before Congress voted on a war resolution, when it may have made a difference.

Woodward has also been accused of exaggeration and fabrication by other journalists, most notably regarding Deep Throat, his famous Watergate informant. Before he was revealed to be top FBI official W. Mark Felt, some contended that Deep Throat was a composite character based on more than one Watergate source. Martin Dardis, the chief investigator for the Dade County State Attorney who in 1972 discovered that the money found on the Watergate burglars came from the Committee to Re-elect the President, has complained the book and movie misrepresented him. Woodward was also criticized for his deathbed interview with former CIA Director William J. Casey. Critics have said that Woodward's interview with Casey simply could not have taken place as written in the book Veil, and that he fabricated the scene.

Despite these criticisms and challenges, Woodward's record as an authoritative and balanced journalist has stood up well over time. The publication of a Woodward book, perhaps more than any other contemporary author's, is treated as a major political event that dominates national news for days.


Woodward has co-authored or authored ten #1 national best-selling nonfiction books, more than any other contemporary American writer. They are:

Woodward's two other books, also national best-sellers, are:

Newsweek magazine has excerpted five of Woodward's books in cover stories; 60 Minutes has done segments on five; and three have been made into movies.

Woodward lives in the Georgetown section of Washington. He is married to Elsa Walsh, a writer for The New Yorker, and has two daughters.

External links

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