Long after teaming up with Carl Bernstein to expose the Watergate scandal and win a Pulitzer Prize in 1973, Woodward continues his work at the Washington Post, his employer for almost five decades. In a recent phone interview, Woodward, 74, said he is more optimistic than cynical when it comes to the First Amendment and the challenges faced by the national press. "But, I am worried,'' he said. "The habit of government is to not be open and transparent. I think the biggest worry is secret government, and we have an abundance of it. The public and reporters are not told what is going on."
In early 2018, Woodward is scheduled to pay a visit to the Tampa Bay area. Billed as "A Night With Bob Woodward,'' the Jan. 24 program at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg will have him sharing his experience and insights on Washington, D.C., and the leaders he has covered over the years. For tickets, go to themahaffey.com.
What's on your nightstand?
My nightstand is for leisure reading. I just read John le Carré's A Legacy of Spies, which has driven me back to le Carré's earlier work. So I'm reading for the third time Smiley's People, and I hope over the holidays to read David Ignatius' new spy book, The Quantum Spy. He works at the Post.
What is it about Smiley's People and le Carré that is pulling you back again?
To me, George Smiley is the master investigator — persistence and patience. … Then there are more books not on my nightstand but on my desk in my office. It is stacked. I'm now writing a book on Trump. I'm reviewing a series of books about earlier presidents, in particular Obama. I am looking at Robert Gates' book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Leon Panetta's Worthy Fights and Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices.
When you say review, these are all books you are reviewing and reading for your own work?
Yes, background, and specifically to acquaint myself on how Obama handled national security. Presidents live in the unfinished business of their predecessors, and so this is background research addressing that question on how certain national security was handled.
I'm also looking back at George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points. Then, I also have President McKinley: Architect of the American Century by Robert Merry, and at some point, I hope to read Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
I'm also very interested in Vietnam. I served in the Navy, on a ship off the coast of Vietnam for months. It's not a book, but I recently looked at Ken Burns' Vietnam series. I also have read Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden.
You have been outspoken on how you feel about today's journalists being affected by the internet and how the speed of the news could cause them to miss an important story. What is the No. 1 thing you advise journalists to do right now in order for that not to happen?
People will always have to cover the daily story, and they will have to move at light speed. But, the internet creates a culture of impatience and speed, and so often reporters are working their story from the internet and sending email requests and questions to the White House or to the mayor's office and then they get a carefully crafted, if not longer, response than they would otherwise. We're not showing up enough to meet people in person. So meet in person, face to face. And do multiple interviews with key people. If you find someone who is the mayor's No. 1 aide, meet with her. Do several meetings. The thought of this is as follows: There is always a better version of what happened and of what's driving people and what the nature of the conflict is or the responsibility people feel in their jobs. You don't get it in the first interview.
Do you think the outcome of Watergate and the coverup would have been completed more quickly in today's fast-paced, internet-driven world?
No. The key information would not have been on the internet. As someone suggested to me, "Oh, you just would have Googled Nixon's secret fund." … Now, if someone has a secret illegal fund or there is campaign espionage and sabotage, that's not going to be put on the internet.
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.