SALT LAKE CITY — Renowned reporter Bob Woodward, part of the duo that broke open the Watergate scandal and covered presidential politics for years to come, reminisced about his career and offered insight on the current political climate during a presentation at the University of Utah on Thursday.
Between the charged political climate, scrutiny on both major political parties and branches of government, and a fast-paced news cycle, Woodward urged the audience to "look at everything that is being tested."
"The Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the presidency, Congress, the media. … This really is the final exam for democracy," Woodward said, drawing murmurs of agreement from the crowd.
The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter and prolific author spoke as part of the Hinckley Institute of Politics' 2017 Sam Rich Lecture Series. The conversation with Doug Fabrizio, host and executive producer the RadioWest program on KUER radio, focused on Woodward's experiences with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein investigating Richard Nixon and the scandal that ended his presidency in 1974.
The reporting, he said, focused on meticulously digging for answers in an age not yet propelled by the urgency of the internet. Within days, he said, there were signs pointing to White House involvement in the 1972 break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, but it still took months of reporting before a clear picture of the conspiracy came into view and Nixon resigned.
On that day, Woodward recalled that paper's editor, Ben Bradlee, moving through the newsroom mandating that no one gloat over the collapse of the presidency.
The conversation also drew ties to the investigation surrounding President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
"I think there are too many unanswered questions, I think it's very serious, who knows where the story is going to go," Woodward said.
Meanwhile, Woodward cautioned that he sees "a little unhinged, emotional reporting on both sides, and I think that's not good for the reporting business. I want to go out and cool everyone down."
In a question via Twitter, one member of the audience asked Woodward whether he thinks social media is leading the country to be more informed about current issues, or less informed.
Woodward replied that he doesn't believe constant surfing of social media, email and the internet is helping inform people, but rather, "I think it's a bucking bronco that we're all riding and no one has tamed it yet."
In a dinner prior to the presentation, Woodward commented on the state of the media, lamenting a recent conversation with a reporter who indicated all of his interviews are conducted online or by phone rather than in person.9 comments on this story
In contrast, while writing a book on President George W. Bush, Woodward said that after being ignored or denied numerous times by a general he wanted to interview, he sought the man out at home one evening.
"I stayed for two hours and he answered most of the questions," Woodward explained. "Do you know, why? Because I showed up. We are not showing up in our business and that is diluting the product in a way that is maybe catastrophic."
He also commented on the amount of information he fears is being missed in the frenetic news cycle.
"The media environment clearly has changed, impatience and speed drives so much, the sound bite rules the world," he warned.