We devote untold amounts of print to trying to figure out why powerful people are fuckups, and this is the heart of it all:
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning.
I used to have an editor who made us all change beats every three to six months. It was a pain in the ass, as it didn’t let anybody get really good at anything, but the intent was to avoid, even on a small scale, a situation where we began to feel ourselves part of a club that wasn’t our own. Because when you start to feel closer to your sources than your colleagues, or worse, start to mix the two up, you do a disservice to your readers.
Of course, readers are no longer who Woodward is serving, and he hasn’t been serving anyone but himself for quite some time. And it shows:
Everybody’s saying now that surely Bob Woodward has gotten harder pushback, more bullying than this. But really? How recently? I think he’s been much more coddled in recent years than people are inclined to admit.
It’s depressing because it’s Woodward, but other than that it’s entirely predictable.
One thought on “Power Protects Itself, Always”
I don’t even know what these assholes are talking about in terms of “bullying” or “pushback.” Nobody can bully you or “push” you off a story except if you let yourself be pushed off by bullying. Woodward is selling a book about an incredibly compicated, boring, miserable story: the struggle over the budget and he knows quite well that no one is going to want to read it because really–who cares? He tried to puff off the book and give himself something to talk about by posing as the “most dangerous man in Washington” and “the last honest man” and in order to do that he had to create a villain. This was such a pathetic, transparent, ploy and plea for attention that he should have been laughed off the stage except that, of course, it fits in with Politico and the right wing fixation on the notion that the Obama White House is thug central.
For Christ’s sake journalists get shot, stabbed and blown up trying to get the story. Woodward actually would have you believe that being on wine sipping terms with your subjects is the equivalent of winning the purple heart?
BTW Athenae I’d like to recommend a great book (fun read) by a friend of mine: Shooting History by Jon Snow.http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shooting-History-Personal-Jon-Snow/dp/0007171854 Its a very bucklesquashing, ripping yarn, sort of journalist memoir by a guy who really did some freaky, English style, sang froidy journalism including interviewing Idi Amin and swimming out to a boat under fire in the Persian Gulf.
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