Chapter 13 of 24 from Bob Woodward

Students Critique Woodward's Interview With Obama


Bob and a group of students from his Yale journalism seminar analyze his interview with President Barack Obama about his decisions in war.

Topics include: Figuring Out the Assignment • Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Bob and a group of students from his Yale journalism seminar analyze his interview with President Barack Obama about his decisions in war.

Topics include: Figuring Out the Assignment • Getting to the Heart of the Matter

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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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.

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.


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

Brilliant words from Bob Woodward. I am enjoying this!

As a repoter for a local small town paper, this class provided big time journalism techniques for small town America. Thank you and God Bless.

Incredible class! Mr. Woodward gives keen insight on how to be great journalist! Follow the clues, report the facts, and make sure you get it right!

It was interesting, full of ressources, and honest. Frankly, this is what we need right now. Objectivity is rare nowadays.


Pamela K.

I am a journalist/author and I didn't find the Obama/Woodward conversation "awkward" or "uncomfortable" at all. Both men are professionals -- Obama knows Woodward is coming in to interview him (the Watergate Guy!), and is a seasoned public figure (he's the President, for gosh sake!) I wonder if maybe the younger generation isn't used to having a back and forth conversation? A lot of time is spent text/emailing? Maybe they're uncomfortable speaking face to face with another person? (Not sure.) I didn't find Woodward pushy at all... esp when you watch the cable stations with people screaming at one another.

Kimberly S.

Discretion or deception? You be the judge.

Karan S.

"If you want to be friends, go find another job" Lines to live by in this profession.

Ross P.

The cool thing about this class is the elements and values are replicable in other areas. "If you want to be friends, go find another job." Same "pushy" attitude could be used for directing which is what I do.


I conclude that the students became overly concerned about what they believe was awkwardness during this interview. President Obama telling the reporter that he will not answer a particular question is a response; maybe not the one that was wanted but it still is a response. I agree with Bob's methods relevant to the 72 lynch pins being submitted before the interview. Getting something "on the record," is the goal. Allowing someone to prepare in advance helps achieve this goal. It also helps the interview stay focused as I'm sure that included in the agreement prior to the interview probably was a time constraint for the interview. Lastly, by providing the questions, Bob takes away the opportunity for an assertion that something was "taken out of context." Every person I've ever known who doesn't like what is written about them makes that assertion. I was a PIO for 12 years. Not one time was I ever misquoted or taken out of context.

Sunny N.

Very effective lesson. It is not often that a journalist--an interviewer--becomes the interviewee. The students asking the questions and pressing for answers and reasons for certain approaches prompted some defensiveness, a normal reaction in the hot seat. In addition to its value as an instructional tool, this exercise of switching seats is a healthy learning tool for a journalist, prompting reflection, and reflection is always good. It helps journalists review their performance by changing places with an interviewee. How does a question phrased in that way make me feel? Would I be inclined to answer that question fully or at all? Would this style make me answer? And so on... Switching seats prepares the mind for future encounters and interviews; and grants the journalist a taste of what she/he dishes out on a daily basis for a living.

John S.

Whether it’s a president, CEO or city council member, there should always be time and effort to do your homework in preparation for the interview. In this case, Woodward’s obvious history, credibility and knowledge allowed him to preface the interview with a detailed sketch of the facts prior to the interview. My sense was Obama did not want to share anything which created tension and a competitiveness of two great minds. Listening to the interview in its entirety is a great lesson in and of itself on the art of interviewing, not only in preparation but also how to manage a subject who may resist or decline to answer specific questions. There are lessons to be learned in how to phrase questions,, when to ask, what to ask and the importance of listening and counter responses. This was an excellent round table.


It is pretty interesting to learn about Bob's emphasis on not just confirming the facts but also trying to understand their intent of doing certain things or taking some decisions that they are not aligned with. A lot of psychological play in fact.

Diana B.

very impressed by the persistence that need to have journalists, don't taking No for answer. Interesting round table with very smart students, he is a great mentor!


Enjoyed this lesson. The students asked good questions and demonstrated their own keen listening ability and perceptive questions. The female student on our far right already has a great skill set and I won't be surprised to see her grow into the chairs of Christianne Amanpour, Barbara Walters and the like. Great on camera presence. Judith in Vancouver


We're now going to discuss an interview I did with President Obama about his decisions in war for the book I did of Obama's Wars, and we've got clips galore. Yes. Chris, go ahead. I was talking to Axelrod about linchpin moments, and I've identified, unfortunately, 72, OK. And I have-- I'm worried about the ones [INAUDIBLE].. This will be like Jeopardy. That's right. Quick answers. But there's, you know, it's such a serious matter, and clearly what emerges from the record is you've given it serious attention, to say the least. Correct. Two days after you're elected, McConnell, who's then DNI, comes with the CIA man, Mike Morell, and they brief you in Chicago, give you, kind of, the first real look at the deep intelligence secrets. What was your reaction after that briefing? They-- I'm just going to-- I know that you and Robert talked about this-- Yes. --but I'm just going to preface this answer, with, sir, a general view of how I'm going to approach this interview, Robert. Yes, sir. And that is that the-- you have commentary, or reporting on specific conversations, specific dates, et cetera. My job as President is not going to be to corroborate or dispute particular comments. We didn't get to 72, and it was an hour and 15 minutes. But he says, I'm not going to corroborate, and then-- if you've gone through the transcript-- he does. He actually can't help himself. But now, put yourself in my shoes. You send in all these questions, which he's read, his staff has gone-- pored over in detail, and he says, oh, you have better sources than I do. And then he even goes so far as saying, have you ever thought of becoming CIA director? It was not a job offer. But I left the interview thinking, he's corroborated all of these-- all 72. There was one he kind of half-disputed, so I got what I needed. And this is the nice system of talking to people and getting documents. And those 72 linchpin moments come from those documents. He insists so many times throughout this interview, my job is to provide you mindset, details, you know-- that's not a question for me. What was the purpose, then, of sending him such a technical set of questions? It doesn't feel, to me, as though it's an emotional, what were you feeling, interview. It's much more of a like, this happened, I'm going to, you know? OK, but I did ask him, what did you feel? And what was your reaction when you first had to decide to send troops into harm's way? And he said, you know, that's the hardest thing he does. But that was one of 72. Very good question, and the answer is, I know how the White House works. And I learned because I got to spend 18 months working the Obama White House. And how it works is, somebody sends questions in like this, and the President has agreed to do the interview, and they have lots of staff people going through the top-secret ...