Synopses & Reviews
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 aloneand the results were historic.
After Watergatethe most important event for journalism, politics, and the presidency in the past one hundred yearsWoodward 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 therebut 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 weekendhis 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.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein will always be famous for their part in untangling the Watergate scandal. Shepard, though, is far more interested in what happened afterward, and in examining the uneasy rewards of early success. Her prose can be clichéd, but her biographical curiosity is large; she seems to have interviewed almost everyone with a connection to her subjects. Other journalists played important roles in ending the Nixon Presidency, Shepard notes, but it was the film version of “All the President’s Men,” a retelling that left several colleagues feeling slighted, that enshrined “Woodstein” in “fame and glory.” When the pair sold their papers to the University of Texas, for about five million dollars, one observer noted that they had become “as much a part of the story of Watergate and historical record as any of the people they reported on.” (New Yorker
, December 4, 2006)
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are in the news again—as they have been since teaming up at The Washington Post more than 30 years ago to expose unimaginable corruption in the White House of Richard Nixon.
Woodward has just published an expose of George W. Bush's presidency, especially the conduct of the war in Iraq. Bernstein is soon to publish a long-awaited biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The timing is good for Alicia C. Shepard, author of "Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate." Writing a biography of journalists is a dicey proposition for the biographer. After all, journalists are almost always observers, not participants. What they publish is almost entirely dependent on what other people say and do. So why not write biographies of those other people—the movers, the shakers—rather than chronicling the seemingly second-hand lives of the observers?
In the case of Woodward and Bernstein the dicey proposition becomes a safe bet. They are journalists who made a significant difference in American history by helping drive a U.S. president from office, journalists who have achieved celebrity status by publishing serious exposes, journalists who have lived interesting private lives.
Shepard's dual biography is not the first about Woodward and Bernstein. Thirteen years ago, Adrian Havill published "Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein." It shed useful light on them as journalists and as human beings. Shepard, however, is able to tell the story of the two journalists brought together by chance at The Washington Post more fully.
After all, Woodward and Bernstein have accomplished a great deal since 1993, and Shepard can bring their stories up to date. She is the first journalist to rely heavily on personal papers Woodward and Bernstein sold to the University of Texas archives. Perhaps most powerfully, Shepard is able to discuss the identity of the journalistic duo's previously secret source, the man called Deep Throat in the book and movie that made Woodward and Bernstein famous, "All the President's Men."
Shepard, who teaches journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., has written wisely about the successes and failures of reporters and editors for many years, especially for the American Journalism Review. 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.
Woodward, going solo after he and Bernstein split over professional differences, quotes anonymous sources regularly in his books and sometimes in his newspaper pieces. Lots of journalists are patient with or even endorse finding information from anonymous sources as an invaluable tool. Others believe the practice constitutes lax reporting that allows sources to exaggerate or lie without adverse consequences.
For readers who prefer nicely verified gossip, Shepard chronicles the difficulties both men had with handling fame and wealth—their divorces, their off-and-on bitterness toward each other, their dismay at the carping of book reviewers, their precarious professional relationships with colleagues at the Post.
For all its detail, Shepard's book is not comprehensive. It glosses over the journalists' childhoods—Woodward's in a Chicago suburb and Bernstein's in Washington, D.C. It barely mentions or ignores numerous journalism controversies involving the years Woodward and Bernstein worked as a team during the 1970s. Shepard does not even discuss half of Woodward's controversial investigative books.
The dual biography's relative brevity is more virtue than drawback, though. After all, journalists are mostly observers, making large portions of their careers difficult to fit into a compelling narrative. Shepard has found a good balance to minimize the odds of readers exiting early.
—Steve Weinberg, a freelance investigative reporter, has written frequently about Woodward and Bernstein. (The Oregonian, November 26, 2006)
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein will forever be remembered as the reporters whose investigative series for the Washington Post on the Watergate scandal would ultimately force President Nixon to resign in 1974. But what happened after Watergate? Shepard (journalism, American Univ.) provides a thoughtful account of the next stages of Woodward and Bernstein's careers. In alternating chapters, she details the personal and professional ups and downs of each man, from Woodward's stint as the Post's assistant managing editor and subsequent downfall in the wake of reporter Janet Cooke's phony story profiling an eight-year-old heroin addict to Bernstein's divorce from writer Nora Ephron, which she turned into the movie Heartburn. 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. Unlike Adrian Havill's Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Shepard's book chronicles the lives of two of the 20th century's most notable journalists without casting judgment. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Regina M. Beard, Kansas State Libs., Manhattan (Library Journal, October 15, 2006)
"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—both during their early days as they pieced together the Watergate scandal and over the years as their careers took very different paths. If All the Presidents Men
was the ultimate work of journalistic sleuthing, Shepard's Woodward and Bernstein
should be placed right next to it on every bookshelf. It is likely to endure as the definitive account of the lives of two men who changed journalism forever."
—Michael Isikoff, Investigative Correspondent, Newsweek
"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
"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 outsider¹s 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
"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
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.
""A thorough, diligent book. Shepard has unearthed a range of interesting details.""
--""The Washington Post""
""Shepard is far more interested in what happened [after Watergate], and in examining the uneasy rewards of early success. . . . She seems to have interviewed almost everyone with a connection to her subjects.""
--""The New Yorker""
""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. It is likely to endure as the definitive account of the lives of two men who changed journalism forever.""
--Michael Isikoff, Investigative Correspondent, ""Newsweek""
""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, ""The New York Times""
After Watergate--the most important event for journalism, politics, and the presidency in the past one hundred years--""Washington Post"" reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein became living legends throughout the world. Now award-winning journalist Alicia Shepard separates myth from reality as she traces the life lessons of these two iconic journalists who helped topple a president. Sorting through their early lives and divergent careers since Watergate, Shepard offers a riveting tale that draws on more than 175 interviews and never-before-seen archival materials, including the newly opened Watergate papers. ""Woodward and Bernstein"" recalls the thrillerlike pacing of ""All the President's Men"" while weaving together the long-awaited details the pair left out over thirty years ago.
About the Author
Alicia C. Shepard is a regular contributor to ""People"" and the ""Washingtonian."" She teaches journalism at Georgetown 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.