Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So This Is Journalism

OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts: Bob Woodward takes a novel approach in his new book on the Bush administration.

The story is classic Bob Woodward: fly-on-the-wall descriptions of super-secret discussions, details missed by every other reporter, a juicy scoop. But the account leaves lingering questions: Did Prince Bandar really get the Chinese to release the hostages? Was that the whole story? How does Mr. Woodward "know" all this? Could it be that Prince Bandar himself is making the claim? Your guess is as good as mine. Mr. Woodward doesn't tell us.

"State of Denial" is replete with similar Woodwardian reporting: secret meetings recounted in vivid detail, complete with lengthy, verbatim quotations of what key players said to each other as the story unfolded. Once again, it all reads as if Bob Woodward was lurking in the background as the meetings happened, taking exceptionally detailed notes. But of course he was not there. We learn not only what the president and all his men said but also what unspoken thoughts raced through their minds. But Mr. Woodward wasn't inside their heads either, it is safe to say.

Mr. Woodward attempts to write like a novelist, not a journalist: His books are scenic and dramatic and dialogue-driven, more sensationalism than history.

Mr. Karl is senior national security correspondent for ABC News.

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