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In an age where ‘fake news’ and impeached American presidents are once again dominating the media, investigative journalism is needed more than ever. Masterclass now offer a course on the subject, and it is taught by an absolute titan of the newspaper trade in the shape of Bob Woodward. If you have heard about Watergate you are sure to have heard of Woodward. His work in the early 1970s brought down Richard Nixon, and left a lasting mark on the history of the 20th century as well as influencing generations of journalists who came after him.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at the Masterclass course where Bob Woodward teaches investigative journalism. If you want to find out what it’s like to learn from an undeniable master of his trade, read on.
Who Is Bob Woodward?
Robert Woodward was born in Geneva, Illinois, in 1943. He was raised by his lawyer father, who had divorced Woodward’s mother when the future journalist was just 12 years old. He would receive his university education at Yale, which he attended on a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship. There, he studied history and English literature. After completing his BA in 1965, Woodward spent the next five years serving in the US Navy. He served aboard the USS Wright, and was one of two officers aboard the warship who was assigned to move or handle nuclear launch codes.
After being discharged from the Navy in 1970, Woodward was offered a place at Harvard Law School. He opted not to attend, though, instead choosing to apply for a job as a reporter at The Washington Post. At the time, he was also studying graduate courses in Shakespeare and international relations at George Washington University. The Post did not hire him due to his lack of experience as a journalist. Eventually, he would start working for The Post in 1971, after spending a year working for the Montgomery Sentinel, a suburban newspaper in Washington DC.
It was in 1972 that Woodward would start work on the story that made his name. Along with colleague Carl Bernstein, he was assigned to report on the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in a Washington, D.C., office building called Watergate. Along with editor Ben Bradlee, the duo’s work would expose the corruption and dirty tricks that lay at the heart of the administration of President Richard Nixon.
The book that was written about the case, authored by the two journalists, became a bestseller. In 1976, it was turned into a movie starring Robert Redford as Woodford and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. Both journalists became celebrities as a result. They would follow up the first book with a second about Nixon, The Final Days, that dealt with the final months of the Nixon administration. Woodward would go on to become a managing editor at The Washington Post.
Later in his career, in the early 21st century, Woodward would become close to President George W. Bush, interviewing him for almost 11 hours over six sessions. He would write four books based on those interviews. He would also believe the Bush administration’s claims about there being weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, something that he later admitted he was wrong about.
He has continued to write and edit for the post up to the present day. Although he has never won a Pulitzer Prize himself, he has made significant contributions to two Pulitzers won by The Post – one for Watergate and one for its coverage of the September 11 2001 attacks. He has won many awards in his own right, including the George Polk Award (1972) and the William Allen White Medal (2000).
So what is in the Bob Woodward Masterclass course on investigative journalism? We’ll take a closer look at that next.
How Long Is The Bob Woodward Masterclass Course?
The Bob Woodward teaches investigative journalism Masterclass course is one of the longer offerings from this provider. There are 25 video lessons in total, with their time adding up to four hours and 33 minutes. That represents a pretty significant time commitment, so you should think carefully about that before you commit to the course.
You will also need to spend some time working through the additional course materials, and thinking about the concepts and ideas that Woodward discusses in the video lessons. While there is not the same volume of practical material or skills to practice as there in Gordon Ramsey’s cookery course, or Stephen Curry’s course on basketball, you will need to take time away from the course to fully explore all of the subjects it teaches. You need to bear this in mind before you sign up for it.
Bob Woodward Masterclass: Course Content
So what is actually in the Bob Woodward Masterclass course on investigative journalism? The 25 lessons cover a pretty wide range of topics, and Woodward begins, in typical Masterclass fashion, with a session on his life and work. After he has introduced himself, things get serious really quickly, there is no gentle introduction to things. Right away, in the second lesson, Woodward is urging students to adhere to his journalistic principles, and to push their personal limits.
After a session on how to find a story, there is a fairly lengthy session on Woodward’s interview with President Donald Trump. Watergate, as might be expected, then becomes a big focus of the course. Sessions on in-depth reporting and finding documents and sources sandwich a lesson on the specific challenges of the Watergate story.
Woodward’s interview with President Barack Obama is also analysed on one lesson, while he also outlines how to build relationships with potentially important sources. The focus for this is Woodward’s own relationship with then-CIA director Bill Casey. Sessions on writing the story, conducting effective interviews and the ethics of publishing state secrets follow. The course concludes with a discussion on the state of modern journalism.
As you would expect from Masterclass, there is also a downloadable workbook to use on the course. This is packed with useful materials, including the entire transcript of Woodward’s interview with Trump. There are also plenty of tasks and assignments to keep you on track when it comes to learning the skills of a top investigative journalist.
The course is useful for anyone who wants to know what it takes to be a top investigative reporter, or anyone who is interested in the processes of journalism. It is also very interesting for anyone who is simply interested in the life and work of Bob Woodward.
Summary & Conclusion
This is one of the better Masterclass courses that we have seen. Woodward is, of course, a giant of journalism, and the opportunity to learn from a true great such as he is not to be sniffed at. While this is not a course that is going to teach you the nuts and bolts of everyday reporting, the skills it outlines are of huge importance to any aspiring journalist.
But the course is also useful for anyone who wants to know how journalism is done, and how journalists find stories and hold the powerful to account. In an age where politicians and powerful people generally seem more slippery than ever, those are important skills for anyone to learn. We recommend the Masterclass course from Bob Woodward on investigative journalism.