Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Speak at NEIU

Photos by Nicole F. Anderson

Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein came to Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) to discuss understanding current politics, the changing world of journalism and investigating Watergate for the Daniel L. Goodwin Distinguished Lecture Series.

The event started with NEIU’s interim president Richard J. Helldobler who stressed the importance of free speech, praised the student newspaper the Independent and introduced Goodwin.

Goodwin said, “It’s very important that speakers be from different political persuasions, different philosophies, different views… that’s the heart of the intellectual that a university has to operate on. I especially believe that universities are bastions of free speech and idea sharing without censorship.”

Moderated by NEIU’s Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Katrina Bell-Jordan said in an email, “It was a thrilling experience to moderate the Evening with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. As a student of journalism, it was truly a pinch me moment, as they say. These are icons of the journalism field, and they have epitomized what it means to be a journalist and to seek the truth. I was honored to have been asked to moderate, and it gave me an opportunity to remember what I most appreciated and enjoyed about the journalism discipline.”

Bell-Jordan kicked off the conversation by asking Woodward and Bernstein to think about 2017. Bernstein (on fake news) compared Trump to McCarthy, saying that Trump has “the willingness to smear our institutions for his personal gain (for fear).”

Woodward said, “This is the internet age of information. The give it to me—too fast.” He then explained that when he and Bernstein were reporting on Watergate, they had time, and if they weren’t ready to publish, they held on to it.

Bernstein said, “There’s no metric in what I’m about to say, but I think one of the huge differences in our culture today compared to the time of Watergate is far fewer people are interested in what a lot have called the best attainable version of the truth and rather are looking to reinforce their political beliefs, prejudices, religious beliefs, cultural…and this knows no partisan... It makes it difficult to have a truthful culture.”

Woodward said journalists are, “not showing up.”

Bernstein added, “reporters tend to be really lousy listeners.”

The two men pushed that more journalists should cold call people to get information, show up unannounced to houses and ask more questions on the spot.

Woodward shared a memory of Bernstein physically diving into an accused spy’s taxi after a Watergate court hearing to get more information. They discussed the hard work it took to get some of their sources to go on record and what it was like to report on something a large number of Americans didn’t believe. Woodward shared a quote from former Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham: “Never, don’t tell me never.”

The event ended with the audience able to purchase “All the President’s Men” by Woodward and Bernstein and get autographs. Edie Rubinowitz, NEIU professor and internship coordinator said, “Woodward and Bernstein inspired future generation of reporters, including myself. But…reporters are good listeners.”

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