Woodward to teach ‘Journalism’

In the spring, aspiring Yale journalists will have the opportunity to learn from one of the most famous names in the field, Bob Woodward ’65.

Woodward will teach the spring section of “Journalism,” an intensive seminar that the English Department offers each spring and fall. Woodward, who is well-known for uncovering the Watergate Scandal with his colleague Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post in the 1970s, said he hopes to teach his students about the intensive and immersive reporting method he developed throughout his prolific journalistic career.

“I think that even in the era of impatience and speed, which defines the news media now, that there is a place for [total immersive journalism],” Woodward said. “I’m going to try to share 40 years of experience.”

In addition to drawing national acclaim for conducting much of the original reporting that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, Woodward served as the Washington Post’s principal reporter covering the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is now associate editor at the newspaper.

Steven Brill ’72 LAW ’75, who teaches “Journalism” in the fall term and was involved in bringing Woodward to Yale, said admission to Woodward’s seminar will follow a similar structure to that of his own. To choose the 15 students for his fall class, Brill said he solicits writing samples and a statement of interest from approximately 80 applicants each year. Brill added that he anticipates Woodward will receive even more applications in the spring.

Though the tentative English Department course listing stated that students who have taken the journalism seminar in prior semesters can still receive credit for taking Woodward’s section, Brill said the list is incorrect, and that only students who have not taken “Journalism” will be eligible to receive credit for the course.

Mark Schoofs ’85, senior editor of ProPublica, taught the spring section of the “Journalism” seminar for the past two years, but would not respond to request for comment about whether he will be returning to teach another class.

Brill added that Woodward’s presence on campus expands the offerings of the Yale Journalism Initiative, which was launched in 2006 with a grant from Brill and his wife. Since the University does not offer a journalism major, the initiative aims to encourage Yale students interested in pursuing journalism as a career by bringing notable journalists on campus to deliver talks and teach classes, offering career advice and guiding students toward summer journalism internships.

Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, has also come to Yale as professors for the spring section of the journalism seminar.

Mark Oppenheimer ’96 GRD ’03, director of the Yale Journalism Initiative, said he thinks students will benefit from working closely with a prominent figure in the journalistic field.

“We don’t hire anyone for their fame who we don’t think will be able to communicate well with undergraduates,” Oppenheimer said. “The hope is that he will stand in the long tradition of excellent Yale College teaching.”

Brill said Woodward has taught one day’s class of the fall seminar via conference call for the past few years and that these interactions with undergraduates helped convince Woodward to teach a full course.

Woodward called journalism “the best job in the world,” adding that he hopes to equip his students with the tools necessary for tackling challenging questions persistently and thoroughly.

“Most jobs deal with the routine, but with journalism, by definition, you are dealing with the non-routine,” Woodward said. “When you go into the newsroom of the Washington Post, in the morning, the questions are, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘What don’t we know?’ ‘How can we advance this story?’”

Woodward has co-authored or authored 12 number one nonfiction national bestsellers, including a book about the Watergate Scandal entitled “All the President’s Men.”

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