October 4, 2006

The Big Buzz over the Woodward Book

Woodward + revelations Woodward + hero Woodward + reputation Woodward + investigative Woodward + credibility Woodward + stenographer
160 27 69 143 89 5

Bob Woodward’s new book has generated major headlines even before being officially released, in part because its depiction of a divided Bush Administration flailing around in Iraq was more negative than his two earlier books on the war. But is "State of Denial" making a bigger splash than its predecssors?

Actually, a LexisNexis search reveals that his 2004 book “Plan of Attack”— about the run-up to the Iraq was—generated more early coverage (1,005 stories) than did “State of Denial” (894 stories) in its first five days. It, too, had substantial revelations, and became a presidential campaign issue.

Still, “State of Denial” comes amid a growing chorus of critics who have accused Woodward of having traded in independence for access. In his Sept. 30 story on “State of Denial” the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz wrote that Woodward’s reputation “has taken a bit of a scuffing as detractors have assailed his recent books as too sympathetic toward Bush.”

A Google News search from Sept. 28—when word of the book’s contents surfaced—through the afternoon of Oct. 3 suggests that much of the coverage of “State of Denial” is focused on the new information in the book, not on Woodward. Stories with terms like Woodward and “revelations” (160 articles) and Woodward and “investigative” (143) tend to predominate. There are plenty of articles mentioning Woodward and “reputation” (69), but a number of them are likely to refer to the administration rather than the author. Only five stories have contained the word “stenographer,” a term his harshest critics have used to describe Woodward’s reporting. Even rivals have admitted that "State of Denial" has compelling details and nuances no other reporter has gotten close to.