Bob Woodward: ‘I get up in the morning and ask, what are the bastards hiding?’

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

My dad said I should have asked Woodward if he liked that Robert Redford played him in "All the President's Men." Sorry dad, didn't ask that.

Last week I got the chance to interview longtime investigative reporter Bob Woodward while he was at my workplace, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

I talked with him one-on-one and then listened to two talks he delivered at Poynter. Here are some of the highlights from my interview with him and his talks:

  • Woodward, who knows Eric Schmidt, said the Google CEO’s tombstone should say, “I killed newspapers.”
  • “It’s odd that the scandal got called Watergate. It turned out the secret code word for the operation was ‘gemstone,’ but we didn’t know that for a long time.” Woodward said. If they had, the suffix for big breaking stories would have been “stone,” like “Monicastone,” instead of “Monicagate.”
  • “So much is hidden. I get up in the morning and I ask the question: ‘What are the bastards hiding?’ Not as a cynical reporter, but as a realistic reporter. People are always hiding things.”
  • “You get the truth at night, the lies during the day.”
  • The perfect time to visit someone, he told students, is after 8 p.m. “They’ve eaten. And if they’re home, they probably haven’t gone to bed.”
  • “How much do we know about what really goes on in government, particularly in the White House? Do we get it? In the case of the Nixon administratoon with the tapes, I think we know 90 percent, but I don’t think we know everything.”
  • “We have the housing bubble and the bubble, and in journalism I think we have a news bubble.”
  • “I think there’s too much emphasis on speed and feeding the impatience people have. … In many ways, journalism is not often enough up to the task of dealing with the dangerous and fragile nature of the world, or the community, or anything you might try to understand.”
  • “The world requires “high quality, probing journalism. And there’s just been not enough of it.”
  • Woodward has a laptop, iPhone and iPad, which he uses to read The Washington Post and The New York Times. “I have a bridge game I play on it, too,” he said. “It keeps an old man’s mind functioning.”

You can read my full story about him here.