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Students will hear from Bob Woodward on history, future of journalism

Reporting by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein 50 years ago revealed corruption that reached the highest levels of government and resulted in the only resignation of a U.S. president. In the ensuing years since the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s resignation, Woodward has continued his brand of well-researched, thoughtful journalism, telling in-depth stories about presidents and other famous people and the long-term effects of their decisions.

At 80 years old, he is still at it and still thinks being a journalist is the greatest job in the world.

“We get to make momentary entries into people's lives when they're interesting and then get out if they cease to be interesting or newsworthy,” he says. “If you're a lawyer, you're often stuck with clients, or a doctor, you're stuck with patients. And a doctor can’t say to a patient, well, your disease is routine and not very interesting so I'm not going to treat you.

“In journalism, if something's boring or routine, we can move on and try to find something that defines what's going on in the country.”

Woodward brings his lifelong enthusiasm for practicing journalism at the highest level to the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications when he speaks at the 2024 Buchheit Family Lecture on Feb. 28. Woodward will talk with students about his experiences over the past 50-plus years as a reporter — almost all of it at The Washington Post — and what he sees for the future of journalism.

“Tell me how good the journalism is in some area, university, state, country, the world. And I'll tell you how good the government is.”

Bob Woodward

“He was the preeminent shoe-leather reporter of his day, of course, and now he’s still breaking news in the digital era,” says journalism instructor Nina Brook, who will interview Woodward as part of the presentation. “He’ll be here right after the South Carolina Republican primary. It will be interesting to talk to him about those results and their effect on the overall race.”

The evolution of the internet and the digital era has had an enormous effect on how news is created and disseminated, Woodward says. But the basics of good journalism have not changed.

The internet “creates an atmosphere of impatience and speed — give it to me quickly, summarize it,” he says. “And often things get reduced to such simple notions. They're not accurate.”

Young journalists starting out must learn to dive deeply into subjects.

“You can't understand a situation or a person in an afternoon,” he says. “We've got to slow down the business of reporting and not be in a hurry.

“What hasn't changed is we've got to get it right and we've got to examine even our own assumptions about people and situations. And the more you learn, often the more you realize you don't understand matters or people as fully as you should.”

In his storied career, Woodward has written about the presidency and how the power of that position has changed over the years. He has written 22 bestselling books — 15 of which reached No. 1, including Peril, co-authored with fellow reporter Robert Costa, that looked at the fraught transition from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.

He also took the unusual step to publish all the recordings of his 20 interviews with Trump over four years so the public can hear the former president’s words for themselves.

Woodward says quality journalism is just as important today — maybe even moreso — than it was 50 years ago when he was just starting out.

“Obviously, I love it, care deeply about it,” he says. “Tell me how good the journalism is in some area, university, state, country, the world. And I'll tell you how good the government is.”

If you’re going

Register online for the Buchheit Family Lecture with Bob Woodward 6:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Joseph F. Rice School of Law. The event is free and open to the public.

Banner image: Photo by Lisa Berg.