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Woodward, Bernstein reflect on Watergate reporting 50 years later

ABC

(NEW YORK) — Fifty years after they published “All the President’s Men,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein remain “joined at the hip.” 


“We’re on the phone, usually a couple times a week to each other,” Bernstein said. “We keep up with the work that the other is doing. We talk about what’s going on here in Washington, about what’s going on in the White House.” 

The two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters sat down with ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl at the Watergate Hotel as they marked the 50th anniversary of their iconic book, which Time called “perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history.” 

Asked whether they predicted the impact “All the President’s Men” would have on the country, they both laughed. Writing the book was a “necessity,” Woodward said. “We’d written these stories that no one believed.” 

“But more than that, we didn’t think the truth about Watergate was going to ever come out,” Bernstein added. 

Their first approach was to lay out the facts of the Watergate scandal. But it soon became clear it should center on the two of them, they said. 

“I said, ‘Well, the one rule of journalism, write about what you know best, and you know nothing better than what you’ve done, so let’s write about what we did,’” Woodward said. 

Bernstein was skeptical. “[I thought] that it would be an undisguised ego trip and recognized as such, that we should just stick with the facts of Watergate,” he recalled. “But Woodward said, ‘Look, we don’t have anything to write about at this point but ourselves.’” 

The two wrote the book in Woodward’s mother’s house in Naples, Florida. 

“Carl sat out by the swimming pool in the most awful pair of green shorts you’ve ever seen,” Woodward joked. “I sat in the kitchen and we said to get this done, we’re going to have to each do 10 pages a day, and then we can go out to dinner. And so that’s what we did.” 

While they had a rocky relationship at first, as they detail in the book, they quickly gained an appreciation for each other. 

“Within a few days of working on this story together, each of us saw in the other remarkable things,” Bernstein shared. “We often switch, to this day half a century later, roles that are expected. What’s expected of me, he’ll do, what’s expected of him I’ll do.” 

Added Woodward: “What it demonstrates is the power of collaboration. We learn in our personal lives you never do anything alone effectively. And it’s the same with journalism.” 

Karl asked their view on why the book, and the Hollywood adaptation in 1976, became such an important work of journalism. 

“The book itself is like a primer on basic reporting,” Bernstein responded. “You see what’s the most important decision we make as reporters? To go out at night and to visit people who work for Richard Nixon and his reelection in their homes, knock on their doors, have the doors you know, slammed in our faces, except for the few that didn’t.” 

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