Arts & Entertainment, Business

Lessons From Editors

Bob Woodward

Lesson time 10:47 min

From the surprising value of rejection to the importance of honest communication, Bob reveals what he's learned from the many accomplished editors he's worked with over the years, including renowned Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

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

Topics include: The Magnificent Gift of Rejection • You’re Not Here to Make People Happy • Breaking Stories Are the Most Compelling • Working With Ben Bradlee • Open and Honest Communication Is Key • No Means Dig Deeper • Never Gloat • Always Look Ahead


After I got out of the Navy, I was going to go to law school. And I realized I'd be 30 when I got out of law school. And at that time and at that age, you think 30 is the end of life and I have to find something else to do. So I went to the Washington Post and asked to work there, just kind of spontaneously. I was reading the Post. It was very aggressive under the editorship of Ben Bradlee. And they gave me a two week tryout, though I had no experience. I wrote a dozen stories, none of which they published. The local editor called me in and said, you don't know what you're doing. Nice try. And I said, thank you. And he said, why are you thanking me. You failed. And I said, I realize this is what I want to do. As awful and painful and emotionally wrenching as failure is if you find out, in the course of failing, this is what I want to learn to do that is a magnificent gift. And so he was astonished. They helped me get a job at the Montgomery County Sentinel, which was a weekly paper in one of the Washington suburbs, very rich county. And I worked for a editor there who once had been the state editor at the Washington Post named Roger Farquhar. Roger Farquhar was one of these genius editors. Comes right out of central casting. He called me in and he said, we've heard from a political opponent of the Maryland attorney general, Bill Burch, that when Burch was insurance commissioner in Maryland, he awarded all kinds of legal fees to his own law firm. Believe it or not, in this period, 1970, being attorney general of Maryland was a part-time job. So he also practiced law. And so Roger said, there are records somewhere. And so I went in on this record chase and going through files and seeing, here these records were of all this money going to the attorney general's law firm. We asked him for comment. He wouldn't comment. We ran a big story on it that the Washington Post had to pick up. Next day, I'm sitting at my desk at the Sentinel. And the attorney general has driven all the way from Baltimore down to Rockville. And I hear all this yelling and how can you do this to me. You've questioned my integrity. And he stormed out and Roger came out and had this almost beauttific smile on his face. The attorney general is upset. And I said, is there a problem. And he said, no. He couldn't dispute a single fact. And he said, that's what we do. We're not here to make anyone happy. Never do you know the scope of the story at the beginning. In the Watergate case, the day I was called on that Saturday morning, no one told me, hey, look this is going to be an important day in your life, one of the most important. So you just proceed. Howard Simons, one of the genius editors of all time, he used to always say, we want to get the story when the sun on it is rising, not setting. In other words, we wan...

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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