Fox and the (White) Henhouse

In Part II of this weekend’s Bob Woodward coverage in the Washington Post, ombudsman Deb Howell manages to score what Howard Kurtz couldn’t: Words that actually came from Woodward.

“Most of the hundreds of readers who wrote and called after my column on Bob Woodward ran last week said I was way too soft on him and on The Post. I think their concerns and questions deserve to be answered.

“One of those readers, Bob Woodward, thinks that some of his critics have ‘pigeonholed’ him unfairly. ‘For 34 years of reporting for The Post and 13 best-selling books, I have tried to focus on the reader and provide detailed, reliable, fair-minded inside accounts of the American presidency,’ he said. ‘My books are regularly quoted in newspapers and magazines, on television during the presidential debates, and by Democrats, Republicans, Bush supporters and Bush critics.'”

He goes on, saying some people ask, “‘Why don’t you get Bush the way you got Nixon?’ I’m not reporting to bring down a president or to build up a president. I ask the tough questions. I want to establish the facts in the most direct way I can.” He says he believes that the question should be: “Do the readers get information that they didn’t have before? I believe that I have added to what was known, and this is valuable.”

On the other hand, readers complain that if he’s keeping lots of secrets and only adding what he wants to add to the debate and won’t harm his access, that’s not really being true to his employer’s readers. As one reader said, “More foxes guarding the henhouse does nothing for us hens.”