Woodward Broke Golden Rule of Journalism

In a quest for profit, he withheld information — and people died

On Feb. 7 of this year, according to Bob Woodward, President Donald Trump admitted to him in an interview that the Coronavirus was “deadly stuff.” Yet, Trump refused to tell the American people that; his motives for withholding the information remain murky, except that we can safely assume he was protecting his political ass.

But what about Woodward? He is a reporter. His job is to disseminate information, especially information that will save lives. Withholding information in such circumstances is unconscionable, yet he did it. Again, one can only speculate as to Woodward’s motives but one can narrow them down to two pretty quickly. He wanted continued access to Trump and knew he wouldn’t have a profitable book without that access.

If what Trump was doing in February in lying to the American people was so egregious — and it was — then Woodward had an obligation to the public and his profession to reveal what he had learned. It should have been headlines on Feb. 8. Instead, one of America’s most celebrated journalists decided to withhold information that has led to an untold number of unnecessary deaths.

Far too many people have died. Frighteningly, so have our political institutions; people suffer and Congress dithers. The presidency is in the hands of a man and party that falsely pledge allegiance to the flag that flanks the desks of their offices.  And the Fourth Estate that is to hold these people and institutions to account is unworthy of its title. It is an estate that is in probate.

In the song, “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture,” released by the Eagles in 2007, the lyrics include these lines: “Good old boys down at the bar / Peanuts and politics / They think they know it all / They don’t know much of nothing / Even if one of them was to read the newspaper / Cover to cover / That ain’t what’s going on / Journalism’s dead and gone.”

Woodward’s book title from the Trump interviews is “Rage.” That is what I feel, knowing that Woodward decided to withhold information that could have saved tens of thousands of lives.

The Eagles were correct. Journalism is dead, gone and buried — along with 190,000 Americans and counting. Woodward has tossed that last shovel full of dirt onto their graves.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2020. News Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash. Bob Woodward photo from Wikipedia Commons.