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Watergate Reporter Bob Woodward to Speak at Penn State

Bob Woodward, known for reporting on the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, will speak at 8 p.m. on February 27 in Eisenhower Auditorium as part of the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Speaker Series (@psu_spa).

Woodward has worked for The Washington Post since 1971 and currently serves as its executive editor. He has written 17 books, most recently “The Price of Politics,” which focuses on presidential and congressional campaigns. Twelve of the books Woodward has authored or co-authored are #1 national bestselling non-fiction books.

Throughout his lengthy tenure at the Post, Woodward has won many prominent journalism award, including two Pulitzer Prizes and the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting. He has been called on countless occasions “one of the best reporters of all time.”

Much of Woodward’s fame stems from work he did as a young reporter at the Post, featured in the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men.” Along with Bernstein, the two did most of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The decorated journalist had studied history and English at Yale University before serving in the Navy for five years. He then applied for a job at the Post but was rejected after a two week tryout. Woodward’s editor told him “You don’t know how to do this,” to which Woodward replied, “Thank you. But I found out something. I love it. I don’t know how to do it, but know that I love it.” Woodward then worked at a weekly paper in Maryland for one year before being hired at the Post.

Woodward started as a night police reporter, working from 6:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. He often woke up the next morning and came in to work the day shift as well. His dedication was what earned him the call to cover the Watergate burglary.

“The morning of June 17, 1972, the morning of the Watergate burglary, the five burglars were arrested. It was a beautiful, spectacular day in Washington. Anyone with any sanity was out enjoying the outdoors,” Woodward later wrote. “And the editors at the Post for the weekend were sitting around. They have this report of this burglary, and one said, ‘Who would be dumb enough to come in and work on this beautiful Saturday morning? Woodward.’ Everyone agreed. So I was called.”

His eventual partner, Bernstein, was also working that day and helped Woodward with the story for Sunday’s edition, along with six others. The next day, only Woodward and Bernstein showed up at the office.

“We learned through other reporters that the head burglar, James McCord, who had been head of security at the Central Intelligence Agency, had also been head of security at the Nixon reelection committee,” Woodward wrote. “And we thought, What’s going on here? And one clue led to the next, to the next, to the next, and it just never stopped. So we continued working on it.”

It was a long and exhausting two years and three months for Woodward and Bernstein, culminated by Nixon’s resignation.

The public was outraged at the revelations reported by Woodward and Bernstein, which included the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex, and called for Nixon’s impeachment prior to his resignation.

Woodward said he believes the scandal impacted  the field of journalism because it proved that “it was worth the effort to dig deeply and spend sufficient time on stories in order to ensure you’re presenting the truth as completely and honestly as possible.”

SPA has not yet announced when free student tickets for the event are available. The auditorium will likely be packed with students from the College of Communications dutifully writing COMM260 papers, so be sure to get your tickets early.

About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.

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