Inside Sources or Insider Tool?

hkWoodward_Bob.jpgThe Plamegate investigation seems to be beginning a cottage industry in newspapers writing profiles of their own writers. I mean how many times before Judy Miller did newspapers publish profiles of their own staff (at least while they’re still alive)? Ditto for reporters who turn down interview requests FROM THEIR OWN EMPLOYER. Now today the Post has Part II. In this case, though, the navel-gazing-to-the-extreme is probably warranted.

Howard Kurtz begins his look at Bob Woodward like this: “It was a cinematic image that lured thousands of young people into journalism, Robert Redford coaxing information out of Hal Holbrook in a dimly lit parking garage. And since, in real life, Bob Woodward fiercely protected Deep Throat’s identity, what lingered was the mystique of a dogged journalist, plying his trade in the shadows.”

In a very even-handed look, Kurtz then lays out the “unique” access and circumstances of Woodward’s work. His critics have ample space: “While most reporters are lauded for cultivating high-level sources, Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor, sees a ‘disillusionment’ with Woodward over these confidential relationships. ‘Woodward for so long was a symbol of adversarial journalism because of the Watergate legend,’ Rosen says. ‘But he really has become an access journalist, someone who’s an insider.'”

On the other hand, in this special setup of a Post writer reporting on the paper’s staff, the Post also gets a chance to hit back: “‘There’s an enormous jealousy factor over this guy,’ says Jeff Leen, The Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, who has worked closely with Woodward. ‘People like to see the king fall. . . . There are a lot of armchair quarterbacks who couldn’t carry Woodward’s shoes but are weighing in on whether he should keep his job.'”

So: Bob Woodward. Critical to history or tool of the elite? Kurtz reports, you decide.