Bob Woodward is regarded by many as the best investigative reporter of his time. Yet after writing or co-writing twelve No. 1 national nonfiction best-selling books (more than any other contemporary, living author), he remains best known for his first investigation: his coverage, with Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein, of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. While working on books, Woodward remains an associate editor of the Post, where he has worked since 1971.
Affiliations (past and present)
Bob Woodward talks about George W. Bush’s 2003 decision to go to war in Iraq, which he says was the most consequential decision a president can make.
Bob Woodward talks about the White House manipulation of the press.
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Woodward receives his bachelor’s degree in history and English literature from Yale. Since he attended college on a Navy ROTC scholarship, he begins duty in the U.S. Navy after graduation.
After his release from the Navy, Woodward considers law school but instead decides to apply for a job at The Washington Post, despite having no metropolitan newspaper reporting experience. He gets a two-week trial but is too inexperienced. Instead, Woodward joins the staff of the Montgomery Sentinel, a small weekly in Maryland.
Trying again with the Post, this time Woodward meets and interviews with executive editor Ben Bradlee and is hired. His first assignment is the night police beat, from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Woodward and another Post reporter, Carl Bernstein, are assigned to cover the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex. Over the next 26 months, they write hundreds of stories about the Nixon administration’s abuses of power and coverup.
While continuing to report on Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein begin to write a book about the scandal. And The Washington Post wins the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism for their reporting .
Woodward and Bernstein’s book about their reporting of the scandal, “All the President’s Men,” is published. Two years later, it is made into an acclaimed movie by the same name, starring Robert Redford as Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Jason Robards as editor Ben Bradlee. The movie wins four Academy Awards and is nominated for four others, including “Best Picture.”
Woodward and Bernstein’s second book, “The Final Days,” about the end of the Nixon presidency, is published.
Woodward becomes assistant managing editor for metropolitan news at the Post.
Working with Scott Armstrong, Woodward’s third book “ The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court ,” unveils the secrecy surrounding the Supreme Court, providing a unique look at the internal communications among the justices.
The fabrication of a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict, “ Jimmy’s World ,” by young reporter Janet Cooke, jolts Woodward’s hopeful newspaper management career.
At the time, Woodward is assistant managing editor of the Metro section, overseeing nearly a quarter of the newsroom staff. He is one of many editors who believed the veracity of the story and even went so far as to support the story’s nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. On April 13, the story wins the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Two days later, after lengthy questioning, Cooke admits that the story was fabricated and resigns from the Post. The newspaper returns the Pulitzer Prize, the only time that has happened in the history of the esteemed award.
After the Cooke incident, Woodward runs a special investigative unit, known as the SWAT team, at Bradlee’s request. The arrangement works well for both parties. Woodward is given eight full-time reporters and editors, and he is allowed to investigate whatever he wants.
Woodward’s first solo book effort, “ Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi ,” is published. He researched the comedian’s life for two years.
Turning his attention to the CIA, Woodward pens another book, “ Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987 .” Researching for the book, he interviews CIA Director William Casey more than four dozen times, including a controversial brief interview while Casey was on his deathbed.
Writing “ The Commanders ,” Woodward provides a behind-the-scenes account of the George H. W. Bush administration’s planning of the Gulf War. The book looks deeply at the decision-making process that the administration and its military commanders went through in deciding to go to war.
Woodward and David S. Broder write a seven-part series about then-Vice President Dan Quayle, which months later becomes a book, “ The Man Who Would Be President: Dan Quayle .”
Documenting the first 18 months of the Clinton presidency in his next book, Woodward writes “ The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House .” Interviewing hundreds of people in his trademark style, he re-creates secret meetings and internal policy debates.
Focusing his attention on the 1996 presidential election, Woodward writes about the campaign between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in “ The Choice .”
In “ Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate ,” Woodward describes how the scandals of the Nixon administration forever changed the office of the president. Woodward analyzes how each of the succeeding five presidents encountered and struggled with the long-lasting effects of the scandals, including ethics laws and the lack of privacy.
Woodward writes about the Federal Reserve for his book “ Maestro: Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom .” In it he describes how decisions by then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan impact the U.S. and global economies.
The first of Woodward’s four books on the George W. Bush administration, “ Bush at War ,” looks at the administration’s response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. The book reveals an administration shrouded in secrecy, allowing only a tightly controlled message.
Woodward’s leadership in the Post’s coverage on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks contributes to the newspaper’s winning the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
Woodward follows “Bush at War” with “ Plan of Attack ,” providing an inside perspective on how and why the Bush administration went to war with Iraq. It later becomes known that one of his background interviews in June 2003 for “Plan of Attack” was with then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who first leaked to Woodward the fact that a public critic of the Iraq War, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was married to CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The Bush White House aggressively attempts to discredit Wilson, who had challenged the president’s rationale for war. In February 2007, Woodward is called to testify in the federal trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who ultimately is convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Woodward later apologizes to Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. for not apprising him of the Armitage conversation until October 2005.
After W. Mark Felt, former second in command at the FBI, reveals he was the confidential Watergate source “Deep Throat,” Woodward releases his account of his legendary interaction with Felt, in “ The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat .”
Woodward’s third book on the Bush administration, “ State of Denial ,” describes how the administration avoids telling the truth about Iraq and reveals the factions that developed within the administration.
In the last years of the Bush administration, Woodward continues to report on the internal debate within the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department on the war in Iraq, in “ The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 .”
After 18 months of research, Woodward releases “ Obama’s Wars .” The book examines the decision-making process behind Obama’s position on the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the global fight against terrorism.
Woodward continues to work at The Washington Post as an associate editor while working on books.
Additional Information and References
- 1972 George Polk Award for National Reporting, with Carl Bernstein
- 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service to The Washington Post
- 1973 Sigma Delta Chi Award
- 2000 William Allen White Medal
- 2002 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting to The Washington Post
- 2002 Gerald R. Ford Prize for Reporting on the Presidency
- “All the President’s Men” (with Carl Bernstein). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974.
- “The Final Days” (with Carl Bernstein). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976.
- “The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court” (with Scott Armstrong). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.
- “Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.
- “Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.
- “The Commanders.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
- “The Man Who Would Be President: Dan Quayle” (with David S. Broder). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
- “The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
- “The Choice.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
- “Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
- “Maestro: Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
- “Bush at War.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
- “Plan of Attack.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
- “The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
- “State of Denial.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.
- “The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.
- “Obama’s Wars.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
- Shepard, Alicia. “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate.” Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2006.
- Interview with Charles Lewis on May 18, 2007 in Washington, D.C.
- Bob Woodward website