September 22, 2012 | By Will Lester | WJLester@aol.com
Bob Woodward accepted the Fourth Estate Award for lifetime achievement in journalism Friday night, four decades after his investigative reporting on the Watergate scandal disrupted the first event honoring Walter Cronkite.
Press Club President Theresa Werner described the scene at the Club’s first Fourth Estate Award honoring CBS Newsman Cronkite in 1973 when reporter after reporter left the celebration as news of the "Saturday night massacre" broke. President Richard Nixon had fired the Watergate special prosecutor and the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned in protest.
That development followed months of reporting by Woodward and Carl Bernstein at The Washington Post about the Nixon administration’s role in a burglary at the Watergate and a subsequent cover up.
Woodward's colleagues at the Post told of his unmatched work ethic that led to what author and Post Associate Editor David Maraniss called “a sustained act of investigative journalism” not likely to be matched. Maraniss said that in the era of blogs, Twitter and Instagram it was more important than ever to practice Woodward’s brand of tireless journalism.
Donald Graham, chief executive and chairman of The Washington Post, said many people who achieved success and fame at such an early age would have “kicked back.” But he noted that Woodward has since written 17 books, 12 of them best-sellers.
“The measure of a reporter’s life is not how many prizes has he won, how much money has he made,” Graham said. The measure, Graham said, is how much his readers have learned.
Katharine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post, recalled that when she was growing up that “for a long time I wasn’t sure whether Bob was Robert Redford or Robert Redford was Bob.” Redford played Woodward in the movie “All The President’s Men.”
She noted: “There is one man who strikes fear in the hearts of leaders everywhere and that man is Bob Woodward.”
George Solomon, a longtime Post colleague and now director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, recalled how Woodward would always get his way when dealing with the boss. He started the conversation with “you’re a great editor” and he “always got what he wanted.”
After all the tributes, Woodward told of how he was once called by a man claiming to be the representative of a Saudi arms dealer whose gave his name as something like “Averell Fullsday.” Woodward went to his scheduled lunch on April 1st. He dined alone that day.And he showed a slideshow of famous photos where Woodward’s image is always present in the background of history, like the Woody Allen character Zelig.
Woodward’s coverage of Watergate and his subsequent work have been credited with inspiring a whole generation of journalists.
And he's still at it, Weymouth said. One comment from Woodward captures his relentless drive, she said: “Every morning I wake and think, ‘what are the bastards trying to hide today.’”