Woodward says journalism game has changed p. 15

By: Tony Case BOB WOODWARD AGREES with Newt Gingrich ? he concurs, at least, with the House speaker's recent observation that news coverage is dominated by the 15-second sound bite.
"Everything we deal with now, we have to deal with the condensed version of it ? perhaps everything but O.J. Simpson," the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist told a group of trade magazine editors last week in New York City.
The media increasingly are not up to the job they've been assigned, Woodward maintained.
"We have to get back in the habit of writing or broadcasting from the point of view of understanding," said the managing editor for investigative reporting at the Washington Post. "We have to make the level of effort and learn to approach everything from every single angle. That takes time, and money."
Woodward noted the journalism game is played differently than it was two decades ago, when he and Carl Bernstein helped bring down President Richard Nixon with their reportage of the Watergate scandal in the Post.
Katharine Graham, then publisher of the newspaper, is perhaps best known these days as the capital's preeminent social hostess, and her running guest list includes prominent business leaders, legislators, journalists, even presidents.
To put these heavyweights at ease, Graham has established a strict rule that all her parties are off the record, Woodward related. Still, he added, Graham has been known to call the Post to report what was revealed at her functions.
Newspeople today adhere to what the editor calls "the Graham rule": Everything is off the record ? unless it's really good.
The age-old concept of "off the record" no longer exists, Woodward emphasized, pointing out that if a journalist is told something under these conditions, it is permissible and perfectly ethical for him to confirm the information through another source and then report it.
Woodward, who last year examined the Clinton administration in his bestseller, The Agenda, and who is working on a book about the current race for the White House, has found that the public longs for a presidential candidate who is straight-talking, speaks nondefensively, and will face up to his mistakes.
The editor thinks people look for the same qualities in journalists. "Error is inevitable in our business and in the business of politics, and the trajectory of learning always includes errors," he said. "But people don't talk about errors, people don't talk about mistakes, and it is my view that people are fed up with that."
?( Bob Woodward) [Photo]


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