READ: Howard Kurtz Previews Bob Woodward Interview on Ben Bradlee
Standing in Bob Woodward’s spacious Georgetown kitchen, alongside Carl Bernstein, I couldn’t help thinking that there was a lot of history in that room.
And the three of us were all thinking about the neighbor who wasn’t there, Ben Bradlee, who had died the night before.
I was there to talk about the legacy of the longtime Washington Post editor, and of course Watergate, for Sunday’s “MediaBuzz.” But there was personal history as well.
I worked for Bradlee, and reported on him, conducting the last interview he ever did nearly two years ago, with coaxing from his wife Sally Quinn, when the Alzheimer’s had nearly ravaged his memory. And I worked for Woodward’s investigative unit, co-authored a couple of stories with him, and had reported on him during controversies over the years.
Bradlee had the great good fortune to run the Post for a quarter century in an era when newspapers really mattered, before cable and the web and a thousand distractions eroded their revenue and their influence. When he directed the paper’s Watergate coverage—Woodward called him “the general”—it was at a time when the public generally respected journalists, even more so after “All the President’s Men” came out.
Woodward recalled how Bradlee backed up his boys—two young metro reporters—through the twists and turns of the story, even when they made a whopping front-page mistake. It was never preordained that the Post would expose the cover-up or that Richard Nixon would be forced from office, even with the help of Deep Throat.
We both tried to describe the charm, the confidence, and the swagger that enabled Bradlee to turn the Post into a first-class newspaper. And we explored the Janet Cooke fiasco, in which Bradlee and Woodward played leading roles.
But this was not just a wallow through Watergate, now more than four decades old. Woodward talked about the need for reporters to aggressively investigate the Obama administration, drawing on lessons from the past.
Woodward and Bernstein and Bradlee helped topple a president without the benefit of e-mail or iPhones or Google. But reporting is reporting, winning the confidence of sources, which is why the aftermath of a third-rate burglary still holds lessons for journalists now that they are held in such low esteem.
Don't miss Howard Kurtz's interview with Woodward on Media Buzz Sunday at 11a/5p. Plus, watch him preview the interview above, via "Happening Now."