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.
"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.)
"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
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)
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.
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.
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.
Review A Day
"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