Former WaPost Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter: "limousine reporting" led to Iraq War
Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH
In an interview posted on PBS' Need To Know Voices blog and flagged by Politico's Patrick Gavin, former Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter turned novelist Lorraine Adams is highly critical of the evolution of reporting since the days of Watergate.
Responding to a question about a character in her new novel -- The Room and the Chair (Knopf, 2010) -- that resembles legendary Post reporter Bob Woodward, Adams offers up the following critique of "limousine reporting" that she says led to the Iraq War (emphasis added):
I think if you're a student of American journalism, Bob Woodward is an undeniably potent figure. I felt that if I was going to write about [Beltway] journalism, to not have him in it would be ridiculous… I thought adding a wife that was so obviously not his real wife added a little lightness, and Mabel helps us get at Woodward's practice. Most people in Washington don't talk about it. Joan Didion talked about it in the New York Review of Books, but it's obvious she didn't know him. I worked with him in passing at the newsroom, actually I worked with him on a few stories so I knew him better than that. I think he practices access journalism, which is different from what I did at the Post. [I] would talk to the people who have no power and who are affected by the people in power, and that gives a much more useful picture of the way policy affects the human soul. Woodward, who started as a reporter who did that, who knocked on doors and talked to people on the ground, became a celebrity. In becoming a celebrity, he invariably saw it as a much better deal for him, in terms of making money, to talk to other celebrities inside Washington: presidents, their chiefs of staff, vice presidents, their chiefs of staff. We have learned that Deep Throat was an FBI official, not an agent, an official. He was on, what we call, the 7th Floor. I think Woodward's capitulation to interviewing people in limousines, as opposed to people on the subway, is something I feel is partly responsible for the fact that we ended up in Iraq. Because so many reporters, Judith Miller is the most egregious of them, spoke to Scooter Libby and some other higher officials, and never spoke to intelligence people on the ground. They swallowed wholesale Colin Powell at the U.N., and [ultimately] their limousine reporting meant that 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives. I don't think anything can be so neatly drawn, but I think in this case it can be neatly drawn.