From Bob Woodward's MasterClass

Growing Your Roster of Sources

As a reporter, the more sources you have in your arsenal, the better your chances of unearthing valuable information. Bob shares ways to expand the scope of people who will talk to you.

Topics include: Good Reporting Will Open Doors • Sources Can Become More Valuable Over Time • Important Sources Can Be Your Eyes and Ears • Understand When No Means No

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As a reporter, the more sources you have in your arsenal, the better your chances of unearthing valuable information. Bob shares ways to expand the scope of people who will talk to you.

Topics include: Good Reporting Will Open Doors • Sources Can Become More Valuable Over Time • Important Sources Can Be Your Eyes and Ears • Understand When No Means No

Bob Woodward

Teaches Investigative Journalism

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Good stories beget good stories. If you write something and it's tough but fair, people will call you. People will-- oh, yeah, you're the one who wrote about that. And reputations are critical. I remember after Nixon had resigned, I was in the office at the Post, phone rang. I picked it up. It's Martha Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, Nixon's former campaign manager who'd been indicted in the Watergate cover up, and was headed to conviction and eventual jail. And I had talked to her a couple of times. And she had this nice southern accent. Bob, hi, how are you? What you're doing? She said, he finally left me. Said, yeah, I'm up our apartment on Fifth Avenue, and John has left. And he has all these documents and letters and notes in his office which he left behind. Why don't you and Mr. Bernstein get on a plane and come up here and you can have at it. Wow. So big consultation with the lawyers, we were cleared to go. We went up to her apartment. And I remember going to the door, and there she is. She's deceased now. She was an alcoholic. She's with the Martini there, and she said, come on in boys. Have at it. Here's his office. So we went to his office, found all kinds of documents. There were Mitchell's handwritten notes as he was preparing for the Watergate cover up trial. We started running stories about these documents, never saying that we got them from the angry wife. After about the third story, phone rings. It's Bill Hundley, John Mitchell's lawyer. He said, I know you got them from the bitch. And I said, you know Bill, we never talk about sources. And he said, look, I know where-- this is obvious what's happened. I want those back, all those notes and documents. And I said, we're just not going to have this transaction. And he said, look, if those who are not back on my desk at 3 o'clock, I'm filing a motion with Judge Sirica to have you compelled to turn them over to me, because we're preparing for John Mitchell's trial. His liberty is in jeopardy. It's a fair trial issue. And then it was interesting. He said, look, give them back to me, and I won't go to the judge. Be fair. Call me back when you reach your decision. Now, I knew if I talked to Bradley about it-- I've never told this story-- he would say, oh, First Amendment. We're not going to be threatened. We're not going to give them back. And I said, there's a practical solution here. I got a bunch of copy aides at the Post. We made copies of everything, which I kept. Sent a messenger, called Hundley and said, the messenger is bringing the documents back. He said, fine. He was happy. We kept writing stories from the copies. And there was no confrontation with the judge about what was fair. What I was doing the Pentagon book about the Joint Chiefs that turned i...

Find the real story

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.

Reviews

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

This one of the best classes I've take. "Be a human being first" this class not only applies in journalism it also applies in so many areas of your life.

Woodward presents a tour de force of process, results, triumphs and limitations. We can only hope this spawns a new generation of reporters as diligent and persistent as he has been.

Brilliant provided me with a great deal of insight into journalism.

Woodward emphasizes how the discipline of traditional journalism must be used to validate and add credibility to electronic media in ultra-short news cycles.

Comments

Kenna & Jeff P.

I was a bit frustrated with this lesson, to be honest. As a young journalist, I was excited to learn ways to grow my roster of sources, as I don’t have much of a roster at this beginning stage in my career. But none of his advice actually addressed that — “write good stories.” Oh, OK, I was purposefully writing mediocre stories, but now that you said that, I’ll start writing good ones...? “Sources can become more valuable over time.” Great, I’ll keep that in mind in the future once I’ve built up a roster of sources...but as of now I’m still looking to find out how to build that roster, and that doesn’t do anything to help. “Important sources can be your eyes and ears.” Again, a somewhat obvious statement that I can keep in mind once I become a seasoned journalist with a roster of sources, but as of now I don’t have that. This lesson was supposed to teach me how to grow, but I didn’t find anything useful in this video actually addressing what the lesson title promised.

Pamela Martin O.

I loved the live interview. I have a question about a book I wrote about the disappearance of a prominent couple on my island home of Hilton Head. The couple disappeared ten years ago and the book came out on the anniversary of March 3, 2018. I am having an event at a local theatre on October 23, 2018 called Deceit, Disappearance & Death : The Discussion. I will have the sheriff, two captains from the Beaufort county Sheriff's office and an editor from The Island Packet. I am concerned about a couple things that have happened since the book was launched. We have sold over 4,000 books in seven months. I know that seems very small but here on this small island it is something. How do you handle a case that is cold but still open and you know things but cannot prove them? This is my most difficult problem and getting at the truth is very difficult. There were Russian prostitutes, cars shipped to Kazakstan, an apparent suicide and much more. Please give me advice.

Mia S.

"When I was doing the Pentagon book about the joint chiefs that turned into story on very much the Iraq War, the first Gulf War in 1991 - and went with the army chief to California. On the way back, I went to visit all of the people on the staff who were on the plane and sat down next to a major named Petraeus. He was the most interesting person on the staff, later became a general and CIA director who ran the various wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But I didn't know that at the time; he was really interesting and thoughtful, so I invited him for dinner. A major is officer third-ranked, so it's not very high-level. Talked about his background, so I was able to follow him through his career. Lesson - if somebody's smart, interesting, spend time with them, even if they're very junior. They may tell you something, you may learn something, and an added bonus may be that they go to the top. If you've got somebody who you talk to regularly, people from years back recently come in for breakfast or lunch, or I go see them in their office just to catch up. 'What've you heard?' 'What's going on?' 'Where's the center of gravity of events, particularly in foreign affairs and economic policy?' I wouldn't quite call it fishing, but I would call it using other people who are very experienced who've been around in government or are still in government who can be your eyes and ears and say, 'This is the story, this is what you should be looking at.' Everyone has their own way of saying no. Bush Sr. had this way: he wrote me this three page letter - it's a perspective on Washington and journalism that needs to be understood. That is, some people just don't like what we do. He's not inclined to do an interview: 'First I do not think you and I had a very pleasant relationship.' We had no relationship, in fact, because he would never do an interview. 'Now I'm out of politics, and no matter what, I'm going to be asked lots of questions. Watergate and the Vietnam War are the two things that move beltway journalism into this aggressive, intrusive 'take no prisoners' kind of reporting that I can now say I find offensive.' He did not want to direct history: 'Mine is to stay the hell out of Dodge and to do as the old Chinese Mandarin adage says - Stand on sidelines, hand in sleeves.' He didn't want to talk. Bush takes this position - reasonable. The problem I have as a reporter, when he was president and afterwards - part of the job is explaining yourself. What he said at the end, which is classic Bush: 'I suppose it might have the right of hypocrisy if I, unwilling to pitch in, wish you well on your new project; but I do. Sincerely, George Bush.'"

Jacquie J.

The last two lesson Discussions have helped me to do the footwork to learn how to make a pitch and what a Pulitzer-prize winning article sounds like. After reading The Bravest Woman in Seattle from the Stranger, I was so captivated that I had to get up from my computer several times while reading it because of the intensity. These two classes have been by far the most helpful in becoming a journalist. The story about Martha Mitchell takes me back because I recall hearing about her when I was growing up, and she was undermined as being just another hysterical woman. It was interesting to hear the other side about what a valuable source she was.

Pureum K.

I like this video too. Expand your sources. Befriend smart people. My parents always told me to be close to smart people because they will go far. Haha, I am still young but I already see some people doing great things :D

Sunny N.

My takeaway: Know when NO means no, a lesson that applies to many areas of life and work.

John S.

I enjoyed this lesson because it places emphasis on the importance of building relationships with people at all levels of industry, not just current industry “heavyweights.” In fact, in my experience some of my best sources were/are people who I formed relationships with when they were in middle management. Often it is those people who are privy to a lot of information sent down from above and coming up from below in the organizational structure.

Mia S.

"Good stories beget good stories. If you write something and it's tough but fair, people will call you. Reputations are critical. I remember after Nixon resigned, I was in the office at the Post. Phone rang, it's Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon's former campaign manager who'd been indicted and was headed to conviction and eventual jail. She had this nice Southern accent; 'he finally left me. Yeah I'm up at our apartment and John has left. He has all these documents, letters and notes in his office which he left behind. Why don't you and Mr. Bernstein get on a plane and you can have at it.' Wow. Big consultation with the lawyers, we were cleared to go. We went up to her apartment and I remember going to the door and there she is. She was an alcoholic, with a Martini there. We went to his office, found all kinds of documents. Mitchell's handwritten notes as he was preparing for the Watergate cover-up trial. We started running stories about these documents, never saying that we got them from the angry wife. After about the third story, phone rings - John Mitchell's lawyer. 'I know you got them from the bitch.' I said, 'Bill we never talk about sources.' He said, 'Look I know where -this is obvious what's happened. I want those back, all those notes and documents.' I said, 'We're just not going to have this transaction.' 'Look, if those are not back on my desk at 3 o'clock, I'm filing a motion with Judge Sirica to have you compelled to turn them over to me, because we're preparing for trial. His liberty is in jeopardy, it's a fair trial issue. Then - it was interesting - he said, 'Look, give them back to me, and I won't go to the judge. Be fair. Call me back when you reach your decision.' I knew if I talked to Bradley about it, he would say, 'First Amendment, we're not going to be threatened, we're not going to give them back.' I said, 'There's a practical solution here.' I got a bunch of copy aides at the Post, we made copies of everything, which I kept, sent a messenger bringing the documents back. He was happy, we kept writing stories from the copies. There was no confrontation with the judge about what was fair."

Gone W.

President Bush's letter was a real treat. I suspect that the essence of his message could all have been stated on a post card, but the cathartic nature of it with a "have a nice day" kind of thing at the end was so utterly human and yet it laughingly showed the qualities of a great executive in that, by golly, it carried the hope of improvement from Mr Woodward. :-)

Joyce

This class is so interesting and useful to journalists and people that are interviewed by journalists. It's a picture into the print media industry . How the industry works. How important investigative journalism is to the world. Thank you.