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Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergateby Alicia C. Shepard
"Reading Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate reminded me a lot of attending my high school reunion. On the one hand, it was fun to soak up bits of gossip about people once significant to me. On the other hand, I wasn't entirely certain why it should matter anymore....It would be nice to be able to extract some larger lesson from [Woodward and Bernstein's] remarkable story, but in some ways, in the end, it's the same tale we all could tell. A whole lot of very surprising stuff has happened to us since high school, and yet, in so many ways, we haven't changed a bit." Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
Synopses & Reviews
The full, fascinating — and controversial — lives of the two most famous journalists in the world
Watergate was the most important event for journalism, politics, and the presidency in the last 100 years. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein became household names throughout the world after they helped topple Nixon and left an indelible high-water mark that confronts every future American journalist. But how do you live the rest of your life knowing you've reached your peak before your thirtieth birthday?
Award-winning journalist Alicia C. Shepard separates myth from reality in this new and thoughtful look at the duo collectively known as Woodstein. She sorts through their influential early lives and their widely divergent careers since Watergate. Shepard's riveting tale is the sum of key interviews with virtually everyone around them, numerous new archival materials, including the newly opened Watergate archives, and the revelation of Deep Throat's identity.
The pair became millionaires overnight. Bernstein married fellow celebrity Nora Ephron, quit the Post, failed miserably as a network news executive, and has never lived up to his potential. Woodward soldiered on to become the biggest brand in the newspaper business, despite having a Pulitzer-winning protégé at the Post get exposed as a fraud and losing all his goodwill in Hollywood with a notorious biography of John Belushi. He famously tells every interviewer he's just not that interesting, but writes a mega-bestseller every other year and bears the weight of nearly all the criticism and praise heaped on his profession.
As gripping as All the President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein takes readers on aninsightful journey through the contentious intersection of journalism, politics, and celebrity.
"In this double career biography, Shepard takes one of the most famous and influential episodes in twentieth-century journalism and shows how it affected the lives of the two Washington Post reporters who gave it life, chronicling the lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein from their pre-Post days to the present. Using a plethora of interviews with all the leading characters, as well as newly-unearthed archives, Shepard picks up where Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men leaves off, filling in the parts of the story that have been obscured by that title's massive popularity — 'many have misread their fascinating story as being the only story' — and providing welcome context through vivid cultural snapshots. Shepard shows how the long shadow of their first book and its blockbuster film adaptation led to the duo's 1977 breakup, and how it haunted the rocky solo careers pursued by each. Separating the men from the myth, journalism professor Shepard provides an insightful, highly readable study for fans of journalism, U.S. politics and the work of 'Woodstein.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"During a handful of days in April 1976, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein went from being esteemed and honored investigative journalists to something we would now call a brand. Their first book — 'All the President's Men,' the saga of the two young Metro reporters' Watergate sleuthing for The Washington Post — topped the paperback best-seller list. Their follow-up volume on the collapse of the Nixon... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) presidency, 'The Final Days,' led the hardcover ranking. The film version of 'All the President's Men' opened to stellar reviews and long ticket lines, conflating the image of the actual reporters with those of the actors who portrayed them, Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. What was not clear then — except to Woodward and Bernstein themselves — was that at the very moment their myth was being consecrated, their active journalistic partnership was ending. In the three decades since 'The Final Days,' the men have traced paths as distinctly different as their personalities. Woodward, the workhorse, has remained at The Post and written or co-authored 12 more books, best-sellers all, as the Beltway's leading chronicler of presidential, judicial and military power. (Full disclosure: My book editor, Alice Mayhew, is also Woodward's. I have never met or even spoken to him.) Bernstein left the paper and often attracted more attention for his gaudy social life than for his two post-Watergate books. This sort of trajectory has an obvious appeal for any biographer. After all, once you've helped topple the most corrupt president in the history of the republic, what do you do for the rest of your professional life? What other accomplishment could possibly measure up? And when you add in the envy factor (never one to be underestimated in journalistic circles), the allure of 'Woodstein' as subject matter grows even greater. Back in 1976, a reporter asked Woodward what life felt like as a celebrity. He replied, quite presciently, 'What I really think you're asking me is "When are you going to screw up?"' Sure enough, Bernstein's ex-wife Nora Ephron avenged his marital infidelities in a book of her own, the roman a clef 'Heartburn,' which was also made into a film. Woodward received withering critiques from Renata Adler and Joan Didion, among others, for supposedly turning from a muckraker into a White House stenographer. The use of anonymous sourcing that Woodward and Bernstein immortalized in the person of the famous Watergate source known as Deep Throat was adopted indiscriminately by lesser reporters, helping to erode what public confidence in journalism still exists. And we know most of this. We know it because of the voluminous writings about Woodward and Bernstein over the years, and we know it because of their own expansive statements to myriad interviewers. (Both men, in fact, have proved admirably candid about acknowledging both personal and professional shortcomings.) So Alicia Shepard faces a very large problem in her dual biography, 'Woodward and Bernstein,' and she never quite surmounts it. A respected media critic and journalism professor, Shepard has produced a thorough, diligent book, but one that feels, well, innocuous. It efficiently synthesizes much of the existing coverage of Woodward and Bernstein, augmented by some energetic research of her own, but it told me very little I didn't know before opening the cover. Let me clarify that cavil. Certainly, Shepard has unearthed a range of interesting details. One learns, for example, that Woodward's penchant for investigation began as a child stealthily exploring the office papers of his father, a prominent judge in suburban Chicago. The most fascinating pages of the book describe the creative process that the director Alan J. Pakula used to create 'All the President's Men.' Shepard describes his shrewd analysis of the prickly interdependence of Woodward and Bernstein — the Navy veteran and the red-diaper baby — during their Watergate coverage: 'Both men initially felt that the other one was not loyal. Bernstein believed that Woodward would sell him out for an editor's approval, and Woodward felt that Bernstein would sell him out to anyone in the newsroom whom Bernstein preferred. ... Woodward was eventually surprised to find that he could rely on Bernstein, that Bernstein was capable of hard work and worthy of his trust. Bernstein came to learn that Woodward ... was not the Establishment or a straight-arrow WASP.' When Shepard ventures a conclusion of her own, she acts judiciously. She gives Bernstein well-deserved credit for 'Loyalties,' his honest and tortured memoir of his parents' involvement with the American Communist Party. To the pervasive critics of Woodward's method — the reliance on unidentified sources, the unsourced but supposedly verbatim quotations, the reluctance to offer analysis or opinion — she reminds us that 'Woodward is a reporter, a fact-gatherer,' rather than a historian. In gathering facts, she continues, Woodward does not simply play the uncritical, deferential confessor to high-ranking officials, as Adler and Didion have contended, but generates much of his material from the lower rungs of officialdom. The question remains, though, whether such passages are enough to justify a full-length book that otherwise travels a lot of very familiar road. For me, who recalls the Watergate era and has read much of the Woodstein oeuvre, the answer is no. In my life as a journalism professor, I can imagine recommending Shepard's book to my students as a kind of reference text on two important figures. But it does not grasp a historical moment, or several emblematic lives, in the enduring, edifying way that, for instance, William Prochnau's 'Once Upon a Distant War' did for Vietnam War correspondents. Someday, when all the contents of the Woodstein archive are unsealed, someone will be able to write the book that deserves to be written about the duo. It will look intricately at the way Bernstein and, to a far greater degree, Woodward interacted with sources both famous and obscure, the way they played the power game. Until then, Shepard's volume can dutifully hold the shelf space. Samuel G. Freedman, the author of six books, is a professor of journalism at Columbia University." Reviewed by Samuel G. Freedman, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Shepard provides a thoughtful account....Concluding with the revelation of famed Watergate source 'Deep Throat,' Shepard sustains reader interest in the two men after what might be the apex of anyone else's career." Library Journal
"Here is the story of the two reporters who cracked the Watergate cover-up. How they did it and what has happened to them since makes for fascinating reading." Sam Donaldson, ABC News Correspondent
"Alicia Shepard has long been one of the nation's most important writers on journalism. Now she turns her attention to two of history's most famous journalists. Her book is a winner — penetrating, fascinating, and remarkably balanced." Gene Roberts, former managing editor of the New York Times
"Alicia Shepard has written a brilliant biography of two giants of American journalism. Her book offers penetrating new insights into the complicated relationship between her two subjects....If All the President's Men was the ultimate work of journalistic sleuthing, Shepard's Woodward and Bernstein should be placed right next to it on every bookshelf." Michael Isikoff, Investigative Correspondent, Newsweek
"Even those who think they know Watergate and Woodstein will find delicious surprises in this engaging book. Those who've always wondered what the fuss is about will find an even-handed, comprehensive answer. All will be powerfully reminded that dogged reporting from an outsider's perspective is a democratic essential and that those who succeed gloriously at it may one day wake up insiders." Geneva Overholser, Professor, Missouri School of Journalism, and former Ombudsman, Washington Post
"Because Shepard is so knowledgeable about the inner workings of newsrooms, her dual biography doubles as a primer on journalism that's especially informative for nonjournalists about the use and abuse of anonymous sources by reporters and editors." Steve Weinberg, The Oregonian
"Readers get a fast-moving, frank account of two star journalists' lives and times." Robert VerBruggen, Washington Times
"Absorbing....A richly detailed book that does justice to both history and biography — an impressive achievement in a well-wrought narrative of fewer than 300 pages." Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun
"It's probably inevitable that someone should write a biography of these two American folk heroes. A biographer's work is even more complicated when the subjects are still alive and evolving — and frequently making headlines. Woodward and Bernstein are lucky that an observer as sensitive and careful as Shepard accepted the challenge." Jon Friedman, MarketWatch
Award-winning journalist Shepard separates myth from reality in this new and thoughtful look at the duo collectively known as "Woodstein." She sorts through their influential early lives and their widely divergent careers since Watergate.
On Sunday morning, June 18, 1972, only Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein showed up in the Washington Post newsroom to work on the strange story of the Watergate break-in. Neither one was particularly glad to see the other. Though they shared a fascination with the story, the only other thing they shared was a mutual distrust. But their synergistic partnership allowed them to do something neither could have done alone—and the results were historic.
After Watergate—the most important event for journalism, politics, and the presidency in the past one hundred years—Woodward and Bernstein became living legends throughout the world, leaving in their trail an indelible high-water mark that every American journalist has had to confront since. Their lives should have been golden from there—but how do you live the rest of your life knowing you've peaked by your thirtieth birthday?
Woodward and Bernstein told you what happened in All the President's Men; now, in Woodward and Bernstein, award-winning journalist Alicia Shepard tells you the rest of the story, including more about the recent dramatic revelation of Deep Throat's identity. Shepard takes a fresh, thought-provoking look at the duo known as "Woodstein." For the first time, Shepard separates myth from reality as she traces the life lessons of these iconic journalists before and after Watergate.
Even in their early days, their differences were clear: Woodward was straitlaced with a strong midwestern work ethic. Bernstein was a streetwise college dropout who worked his way up the newsroom ladder through raw talent. Bernstein was quick at seeing a story and knowing what it should be; Woodward made sure it got done and done well. Woodward was eager to please, inquisitive, and highly disciplined; Bernstein, while brilliant, was also irresponsible, with poor work habits that got him into trouble. He was on "probation" at the Washington Post when he was ordered to work through a weekend—his lucky break.
Shepard sorts through the lessons of their divergent paths, detailing how Bernstein's career stalled and fizzled while Woodward soldiered on to become the biggest brand in the newspaper business. Shepard's riveting tale is the sum of more than 175 interviews and never-before-seen archival materials, including the Watergate papers the pair sold to the University of Texas for $5 million. Woodward and Bernstein recalls the thriller-like pacing of All the President's Men while weaving together the long-awaited details the pair left out over thirty years ago.
Based on new interviews and never-before-seen archival materials, Woodward and Bernstein takes a fresh, thought-provoking look at this unlikely journalistic duo. Thrown together by fate or luck, Woodward and Bernstein changed the face of journalism and the American presidency. For the first time, Shepard separates myth from reality as she traces the lives of the iconic journalists before and after Watergate.
About the Author
Alicia C. Shepard is a regular contributor to People and the Washingtonian. She teaches journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., and has won three National Press Club awards for her media criticism in the American Journalism Review.
Table of Contents
1. The Up and Comers.
3. The Best Obtainable Version of the Truth.
4. In Demand.
5. The Source to End All Sources.
6. The Double-Edged Sword.
7. When Are You Going to Screw Up?
8. Bernstein Unchaperoned.
9. Mr. Carte Blanche.
11. Piercing the Veil.
12. The Revelation.
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