Business, Politics & Society

Guiding Principles

Bob Woodward

Lesson time 10:21 min

Bob's guiding principles push you to get outside your comfort zone, carve your own path, and leave opinion and political slant out of your reporting.

Bob Woodward
Teaches Investigative Journalism
In 24 lessons, learn how to uncover the truth from the greatest journalist of our time.
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You need to get out of your comfort zone. You need to move into areas that you naturally do not understand. Because the learning curve is fast when you do that, and you are in a position as an outsider to look at what's going on differently. Move out of that zone. I have done that myself, tried to move from subject to subject, doing the CIA, the Supreme Court, presidents, the Federal Reserve, and so you have to work hard and you have to learn. And it gives you a leg up. Somebody who's been covering the State Department for decades is not going to do as well quite frankly as someone who's never been there who goes there who's a good reporter and has those feelings of anxiety and panic which are propellants to do good work. There are people who are reporters who can cover the politics and the back and forth-- and there were at the Washington Post. We're fact-based. We're trying to find out what happened and why. And if you mix-- as I think now occurs often-- the investigative reporters, the people who are focusing on facts, will go on television and give political opinions, and all kinds of people start talking about impeachment, and talk about things that-- in the news organization that needs to be separated dramatically. It's a matter of public confidence. Do they trust the media? And if they see the people writing the detailed stories reaching political judgments-- often prematurely-- they're saying, wait, wait a minute, is this a crusade? Let the editorial page-- let the opinion writers have their Crusades one way or another. I think for basic reporters on any level, whether it's in Washington, if it's the county council someplace in Idaho, if something is going wrong, if there is a hole in the system, report on that and separate the political, emotional coverage from those facts. As Carl Bernstein and I were working on the Watergate story and wrote in an article that John Mitchell-- really the closest person to Nixon-- had authorized the dispensing of all of this cash for illegal activity, including the Watergate burglary, we realized this was a big step. We're accusing the former Attorney General of the United States of being a crook. We ran this story. Karl got this shudder, this kind of very dramatic realization and turned around and said to me, you know, this president going to be impeached. And I thought and said, you're right. I think this is where it's going. But we can never use that word, impeach, impeachment, in the news room, because people will think we are on a political crusade. Karl agreed. And as best I can recall, for a year the word impeachment was not used. It didn't become an issue until the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor and there was a firestorm, and members of Congress introduced impeachment resolutions in the House of Representatives. And that began that House Judiciar...

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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.


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

I have learned so much about how to find sources and then how to talk to them from these classes. I have also learned a lot about the Watergate story, which I had not known too much about before. Thank you so much Bob for saying what you say about Trump! Everything he does truly terrifies me.

Very interesting and informative course, you will learn a lot. I know I did.

I found this course to be very interesting both as a time capsule of reporting practices prior to the internet age but also a stake in the ground helping to define ethical and procedural norms for people who are not professional investigative reporters. I bought an all-in subscription to Masterclass largely for this course, and I think my money has been well spent.

Eye opener with key, actionable insights from decades of experience and mastery of his art.


A fellow student

I agree. Might write less about Hollywood and focus on my other talents like comedy writing and being a "Secret Shopper." I see such rude behavior at various local stores that I feel the big bosses should know about it because they are losing a lot of business and don't know why.


Great information, strong yet objective, relentless yet ethical, diplomatically unbiased...,

Vickie R.

I had a great time in the West Wing yrs ago. Even got to stand at the podium and have a pretend conference with Bush.

Vickie R.

When I try asking questions the person I'm interviewing has this way of making me feel intimidated and GUILTY. Like just shut up Vickie an stick to cartooning.

Vickie R.

And I'vr brrn sccused of being a commie cat lover. Hey not my fault cat's name is Vladdy?

Vickie R.

I am taking your advice and moving to another country for my own safety. W.B. sucks.

A fellow student

Is a fact an opinion or is an opinion a fact? People assume that there is a difference. Is there a difference?

A fellow student

Bob Woodward sounds exactly like my doctor, so whenever he talks all I hear is my doctor telling me to exercise more.

C H.

The thing about not voting is interesting. I was out of the loop for a former election, taking care of someone who was ill and just kept hearing the sound bites from each side being vehemently mouthed as truth by friends and family, strangers and media heads. It hurt, because some of these people were educated, brilliant professionals in their own right, yet were unaware they were being programmed at that level politically, and voting accordingly. Because of seeing the road in between ever since then, the idea to not vote is appealing, just don't want it mistaken for not caring, because I do.

Meg N.

I was very heartened by the points on writing facts not opinions, and having the courage of your convictions that getting the story is important. I've been told that "if you don't take sides, the middle-of-the-road is just roadkill.." At the same time, I'm having a bit of a philosophical challenge from the stance that there is something wrong going on, and that is what investigative journalism needs to report. I'll be working on that challenge throughout the course, I think.