Chapter 17 of 24 from Bob Woodward

Navigating Interview Challenges

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Many challenges can arise when you are interviewing someone to uncover the truth. Bob provides insight into how to push through interview obstacles, from withstanding hostility to addressing deception.

Topics include: Be Civil and Hold Your Ground • Address Lies Respectfully • Be Aware of Charm: Bill Clinton Case Study

Bob Woodward

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 don't want to get in arguments with sources, if you can avoid it. Sometimes, you have to. And sometimes, you have information that's contrary to what they're saying, so there are going to be arguments. But I try to avoid them. You don't want them to feel like they're in control, because they're not. But they're being helpful. I just think, on a human level, you want them-- you don't want it to be angry, contentious. I recall being in the Oval Office, interviewing President George W Bush about what was going on in the Iraq War. And the third book I had done on Bush was called State of Denial, which said he was not telling the truth about how poorly things were going in the Iraq War. In the fourth book, he agreed to be interviewed. I was really surprised. My colleagues at The Post said, you're going over to the White House to interview President Bush. And I said, yes. And they said, you better wear a life preserver because they're going to put a bag over your head and throw you in the Potomac River, because you said he did not tell the truth. And at one point, I'm asking him something and he said, it's not as if I'm in a state of denial, clearly sticking it to me about the third book. In a situation like that, you don't want to take the bait. I don't want to have an argument with him, when I'm working on the fourth book, about the third book's title, or what happened. So, I just let it go, moved on. And Bush was the sort of person who could kind of, OK, I'm not-- he's not going to dwell on it, but he wanted to get the knife out and stick it in just a quarter of an inch. And if you're in a situation like this, as a reporter, buckle in, and hold your ground, be civil, don't take it personally, necessarily, if you can, and continue on. Particularly at this time now, when people are pretty angry and distrustful of the press, you are dealing, in journalism, with contested ground. The more contested the ground is, the more the emotions are going to run high and the stakes are going to be high. And that's fine. It's part of that process. First of all, no one ever gives you the full story. They may not know it themselves. You don't know, and that's why you have to spend time against the problem, go to other people, other documentation, and then go back to that person, if you can. So, it's evolutionary. There's not a light that goes off of, oh, this person is not a truth teller. Often, it's a mix of truth and untruth. And the job, obviously, is to go try to verify. Now, there are two kinds of lies. There is a lie, or an assertion like that, which turns out to be untrue, that I think is unintentional. And then, there is the lie where it's intentional. Somebody wants to conceal, or cover up, or deny. If something seems to be untrue, then I think you can say, well, there's contradictory information, and present that. ...

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 eighteen 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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Bob teaches investigative journalism in his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Bob will also answer select student questions.

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Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward Teaches Investigative Journalism