WATERVILLE – Bob Woodward, who initially rose to prominence as a newspaper reporter for his role in the investigation of the 1972 Watergate break-in, spoke on the role of journalism in America while accepting a journalism award Sunday at Colby College.
In presenting an honorary doctorate from Colby along with the Lovejoy Award, Colby President William Adams called him “a hero of American journalism” and said Woodward has “inspired a new generation of reporters, who have flocked to journalism school in record numbers.”
The award is named for Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a Colby graduate and journalist who was killed in 1826 for condemning slavery. It has been awarded annually since 1952 to individuals demonstrating courage in journalism.
Woodward deflected the idea that he was courageous in revealing the corruption of the Nixon White House to the world.
He noted that in many countries, such as Russia, journalists face serious threats of reprisal, including assassination, from repressive governments.
In the United States, he said, “the courage is not from reporters. The real courage, the real risk is taken by the owners, by the publishers.”
Woodward said journalism plays an important role in shedding light on the actions of public officials.
“We should worry the most about secret government,” he said. “That’s what will do us in. All of the other things out there, monumental problems, can be solved.”
Woodward also spoke about the appeal of the profession.
“For me, it’s just a great job. You get to be curious every day,” he said. “I mean, imagine you get up and the first thought you have every morning, is ‘What are the bastards hiding?’ And they’re always hiding something. I don’t mean that in an ugly, adversarial way, but there is way too much secrecy. We have to keep working against it.”
He said journalists are lucky because “we get to make momentary entries into people’s lives when they’re interesting, and relevant, and get the hell out when they cease to be.”
Woodward, an associate editor of The Washington Post, also has published 17 nonfiction bestsellers. His most recent book, “The Price of Politics,” was released in September and dissects the behind-the-scenes negotiations between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders on the national debt ceiling in 2011.
Before Woodward’s speech, a panel of journalists moderated by Stephen Engelberg, managing editor of ProPublica, spoke on investigative journalism in the digital age.
The panel included Colby graduate Matt Apuzzo, 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting; 2008 Pulitzer winner Jo Becker of The New York Times; Martin Kaiser, editor and senior vice president of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and 2000 Lovejoy recipient Bill Kovach of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at: