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The right sources.

I agree with those who have been praising Bob Woodward's new book Plan of Attack. It is a good--a very good--book, full of fascinating inside dope about the Bush administration and its obsession with Iraq. I worry, however, about the lesson that other journalists will draw from it.

It is based, as have been most of Woodward's book after All the President's Men, on interviews with the big shots. Because of the reputation Woodward has earned over 30 years, these people are now afraid not to talk to him. And because they know other big shots will be talking to him, they are afraid to conceal anything that one of the others might have revealed. An unknown young reporter can't start this way. The big shots will seldom talk to him, and even when they do, they're going to think they can get away with pulling the wool over his eyes. That's why Woodward's--and Bernstein's--All the President's Men was a much better model for young journalists, and indeed for most reporters. Its message is to talk to sources at all levels, from the personal secretary to the cabinet secretary if he'll see you. Indeed, this is really all that most young reporters can do. But as they become more successful, and the big shots become glad to see and seduce them, they can get on the wrong track. They should remember that they're most likely to get the story from the people who are working at the action point. The reporter who went out for a drink with a few Abu Ghraib prison guards last fall would now be flaming his Pulitzer.
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Title Annotation:Tilting at Windmills
Author:Peters, Charles
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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