From Nixon to Obama: Legendary journalist Bob Woodward comes to Union

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By Erica Fugger

Legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward spoke in Memorial Chapel last Thursday, April 19
Last Thursday, April 19, Associate Editor of the Washington Post Bob Woodward spoke in Memorial Chapel in a Speaker’s Forum-sponsored event titled, “From Nixon to Obama: War Stories from the Reporting Trenches on Eight Presidents.” Woodward is known for his career as an investigative journalist and best-selling nonfiction writer, during which time he authored or co-authored 16 books and countless articles.

In the 1970s, Woodward worked with fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein on investigative inquiries regarding the Nixon Administration. In doing so, the duo uncovered the now-notorious Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resign from office in August 1974.

Woodward expressed that this cover-up was particularly upsetting because, “I’d spent the last year [of my Naval service] in the Pentagon, and saw a lot of the classified traffic about the war [in Vietnam]…I saw that they just weren’t telling the truth about the war, and that was very distressing.”

As he explained in detail, Woodward works closely with important sources to gain access to this information. The journalist stressed that it is key to “take [people] as serious as they take themselves” for a successful interview with an informant.

One of these informants was the now infamous “Deep Throat,” only recently revealed to be the late W. Mark Felt, an Associate Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1970s. Union graduate Howard Simons ‘51 is credited as providing Felt with his code name.

Simons was a Managing Editor at the Post during the outbreak of Watergate. Woodward described the alumnus extensively, “[Simons’] role was to be a pest. And that’s what editors do, they’re pests. And he’d run around saying, ‘Where’s the next Watergate story? How are we doing on Watergate? Where are we going?’ And, ‘Let’s meet, let’s talk, let’s think. Let’s plan ahead. What don’t we know? How are we going to find it out?’ He was a great editor.” During his main talk, Woodward further denoted Simons as a “fatherly figure to journalists.”

Besides Simons, Union’s relation to Woodward and coverage of the Watergate scandal extends to its current students. The grandson of Watergate Era Post editor Ben Bradlee recounted his own connection to last Thursday’s discussion. Joe Bradlee ’14 said, “I met [Woodward] once when I was really little, but this was the first time he’d seen me in a really long time. His face definitely seemed to light up when I told him I was Ben Bradlee’s grandson. I heard him mention my grandfather at least twice [during his lecture], so it was really interesting to see what kind of impact my grandfather had on his career even to this day.”

Throughout the talk, Woodward’s dialogue progressed from Watergate reporting to the Bush Era White House and on to the upcoming elections. After polling the audience on their political affiliations, he estimated by a show of hands that 82.1 percent of those in attendance were planning to vote for President Barack Obama, seventeen people were in favor of electing GOP favorite Mitt Romney, and twenty individuals considered themselves “persuadable voters.”

After the discussion, Woodward answered questions and signed autographs on books, posters, and even an original 1974 newspaper that announced Nixon’s resignation.

Woodward will continue a series of tours with Carl Bernstein, visiting universities nationwide. His new book will address President Obama’s dealings with the economy and issues with Congress, and is scheduled to be released in September of this year.

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