Woodward Visits Journalism Class

Reporter Bob Woodward addresses a class in front of a brown desk and blackboard
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward addresses Georgetown students last week. (Photo: Darcy Palder/Georgetown College)

October 18, 2018 — Bob Woodward, famed Washington Post reporter and author of 13 best-selling books, came to Georgetown University last week to speak to the students of retired Adm. John Kirby’s Government and Media Relations class.

Government and Media Relations is a class in the College’s journalism program taught by Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst and the former Spokesperson for the Department of State. Throughout the semester, students learn about how to work in either the media or the government and how the two institutions interact with each other.

In brief opening remarks, Woodward reflected on his work with the Navy and how it had impacted his approach to life. While in service, he had been one of the two officers assigned to carry and transport nuclear weapon codes, which inspired him to care about the importance of the political decisions determining their use. It "made him sick" to think of things that institutions may be hiding from the public.

He told students that they, as journalists, are currently facing an institutional crisis.

“We’re putting out a product that people don’t trust,” he said. “We have got to find new ways to think about things.”

Woodward discussed his new book Fear: Trump in the White House, a behind-the-scenes look at the first year of the Trump administration. Famed for his role in the Watergate investigation that brought down President Richard Nixon, Woodward admitted he had to relearn some of his old methods in order to complete the project.

“I realized I had become lazy,” Woodward told students. “You cannot go to the White House [to interview someone], you have to go to people’s houses. I learned from my colleague Carl Bernstein that you have to go knock on doors.”

After his remarks, students asked questions ranging from his role in Watergate to his time spent covering nine presidents.

When asked how he managed to get such sensitive information from such a high level source during Watergate, Woodward reminded students that journalists don’t need to play tricks to get good information.

“You don’t extract from people. You just listen,” he said.

Woodward acknowledged the challenges that journalists face but noted that most reporters are doing their best to get the story right.

“No President or public official actually likes the press,” Woodward said. “But reporters want to get it right. Almost always it’s a good faith effort.”

Woodward closed with a piece of advice for the room of aspiring journalists.

“Keep at it. If you work two hours more when you’re focused, you will double your usefulness to your institution and to yourself.”

— Darcy Palder