Earlier today, author Alicia C. Shepard participated in a chat over at washingtonpost.com about her new book “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate.”
Some notable excerpts:
- Philadelphia, PA: Is it true that Woodward still insists that he be the lowest paid person in the newsroom?
Alicia C. Shepard: Yes. He may be. but that is really irrelevant. He rarely goes into the newsroom, and if you check, he hasn’t written many stories of late for the Post. His arrangement is quite unusual in American journalism. But it seems to work for both parties.
More when you click below…
- Harrisburg, Pa.: What led the Washington Post to stick with Woodward and Bernstein through the entire Watergate saga? Was there ever pressure from more senior writers to take over the story? What led to the story staying with Woodward and Bernstein?
Alicia C. Shepard: Initially the more senior reporters at the Post, especially those familiar with Washington politics didn’t think much of the story. I found a quote from William Grieder who was a reporter at the Post at the time, who said if he’d gotten the same information he would have shrugged his shoulders and said,”politics as usual.”
Woodward had only been at the Post for nine months when the break-in occured on June 17, 1972, and he was hungry and extremely hardworking, and a natural to put on initially. He worked so hard at the time that the Post practically had to beg him to take time off. so it was natural to keep him on the story.
Bernstein was another story. He wasn’t happy at the Post, was looking for other jobs, and they weren’t happy with him. But there was one editor there who saw past Bernstein’s foibles, and that was Barry Sussman. Carl was a reporter with a lot of raw talent and a terrific investigator and a terrific writer. But he wasn’t considered reliable. Carl and Bob were paired together by Sussman, who instinctively knew that together they could do something neither one of them could do individuallly. Today, Sussman doesn’t speak to either man, which seems sad.
- Washington, D.C.: You’re saying so many nice things about Woodward. I can’t believe he wouldn’t cooperate with you for the book.
Alicia C. Shepard: You interpret what I have written in this Q&A as “nice,” about Woodward, I look at my book as my best attempt to get an accurate take on someone who has become like a fifth branch of government. My goal in doing this book was to write a fair, accurate and complex portrayal of what happened to Woodward and Bernstein because of their role in Watergate.
Life in the Shadow of Watergate is by no means a hagiography. Like any of us, Bob and Carl have strengths and weaknesses. If I just wrote about the strengths, I guess they would have approved an authorized biography. But I didn’t. I wrote about their divorces, their personalities, and Woodward’s role in the Janet Cooke scandal at the Washington Post and how he got too close to CIA director William Casey, who was able to steer Woodward away from the big scandal, Iran-Contra. Those stories are accurate, but may not be “nice,” to quote you. Read the book then get back to me, pls. my email is on my website