Arts & Entertainment, Business, Writing

Growing Your Roster of Sources

Bob Woodward

Lesson time 10:35 min

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.

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

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


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...

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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