Arts & Entertainment, Business

Finding the Story

Bob Woodward

Lesson time 9:45 min

Bob explains what makes a compelling news story. He urges you to be open to changing course if a better story materializes.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: What Makes a Great Story • Bacon Cooler Stories • Always Follow the Best Story • If a More Important Story Appears, Pivot


If somebody came from Mars to our planet, and spent a year and went back, and was asked, who in America has the best job, I'd say the reporters, because the reporters go around and immediately do what's interesting. Ben Bradlee never came out of his office saying, somebody find me something boring and routine. You automatically go for what is important, and what is electric, what people are talking about. I remember when I was doing some editing at the Post, somebody ran in and said they'd been at some place, and it is the talk of the town. Everyone's talking about it. Ah, that's the story you want to do. Great stories have to do with power. How are people using power, abusing power? If the editor comes to you and says, I have information that the city roads department is repaving the mayor's driveway, you have to find out what the paving company is, who ordered it, who's paying for it, get some pictures, talk to the mayor, and if he has OK'd the paving of his driveway at city expense, you have a great story. [MUSIC PLAYING] Bacon cooler stories are when there is a surprise, when there is something that you don't expect. It would be a story where you're reading the newspaper in the morning, and you have the bacon on your fork, about to put in your mouth, and the story is so great, the bacon never makes it, and it cools. And one of Ben Bradlee's favorite stories was that they buried Averell Harriman, a very famous diplomat and a former governor of New York, and Katharine Graham, who was the publisher of the Post went to his funeral. And then Ben was able to tell her, go up to her office and say, how was the funeral? And she said, oh, it was very moving and so forth, and Ben said, Av was not in the casket. He was not in the casket. They buried an empty casket, and went through the whole burial charade. She couldn't believe it. And then we had evidence that Av was elsewhere. That's a bacon cooler story. [MUSIC PLAYING] The wasted time quotient can be large. After George W. Bush was elected, and became president, January 2001, I decided that the defining event of his presidency was going to be his tax cut. And so I worked on his tax cut for nine months, until the morning of 9/11, when I was doing an interview for the tax cut. And because of the magnitude of 9/11, I realized, the defining event for Bush was not his tax cut, but 9/11. And I have boxes at home of documents and interviews on the tax cut. And if you ever run into anyone who wants to do a book on Bush's tax cut, please call me. But 9/11 was such a trauma. I think you could argue that 9/11 is the pivot point for this century, and everything that's happened 17 years into this century is connected to 9/11 and that terrorist attack. [MUSIC PLAYING] In the 1980s, when Reagan was president, I did a story about a top secret operation of the CIA to try to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Reagan said, ...

About the Instructor

Bob Woodward was just 29 when he changed a nation. His Watergate reporting with Carl Bernstein helped expose the corruption of the Nixon presidency. Two Pulitzer Prizes and nineteen best-selling books later, the legendary journalist is teaching his first-ever online class for anyone who wants to find the truth. Learn to investigate a story, interview sources, and understand how the news is written. The next history-making story might be yours.

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Bob Woodward

In 24 lessons, learn how to uncover the truth from the greatest journalist of our time.

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