Monday, April 25, 2011

Bob Woodward, Reporting Live

The Richard E. Snyder President's Lecture brought a second well-known speaker to the university this year: Bob Woodward. If the name sounds familiar, that's because your American education probably mentioned the Woodward/Bernstein Watergate Papers, breaking the Richard Nixon scandal to the world. So that's who we're talking about.

Bob Woodward

He pretty much said what'd you'd expect; he talked about the books and investigations he's worked on since Watergate, including some Bush and Obama interviews; he talked about transparency in government, calling "secret government" the thing "we should worry about the most;" and he made the occasional and humorous Watergate reference, referring to the his work in investigating "Nixon...who taped himself. Unbelievable." So it wasn't a very thought-provoking lecture, and it wasn't a very surprising or intriguing lecture - but it was a very good lecture. He was a very likable guy; he told a lot of funny stories about Al Gore, George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton; he joked about his old age and the falling profits of newspapers.

Tufts Daily, 4/25/11

He came out somewhat against "internet journalism," preferring professional reporting. He joked, "You should go home and Google 'deep throat'," implying that the internet is better suited for...other things than uncovering news stories.

Overall, he seemed to stand for government transparency, objective journalism, and thorough reporting. He mentioned a handful of mistakes or misconceptions (WMDs in Iraq, Ford's pardon as part of a shady deal) on his part as examples of the need to dig further and understand the truth.

When asked about such controversial issues as Wikileaks, he dodged. And it's easy to see why: he supports transparency (sounds pro-Wiki) but he also opposes shallow journalism, a lack of reliable sources, and life-endangering information (sounds anti-Wiki). He's not a politician, but he's sure picked up some of their question-avoiding methods along the way.

If you haven't made it out to the Snyder lectures, you're missing out. They're free, and all you gotta do is grab tickets in advance from Dowling Hall (across the bridge, uphill). See you at the next one: Niall Ferguson in the fall.

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