Pulitzer-winning journalist Bob Woodward discusses government, journalism, Sandusky scandal at Penn State

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward believes in what he calls the Hillary Clinton rule: fake it until you make it.

“When you’re the boss, you have to send out that feeling that you like people to take down barriers, to open avenues of communication,” said Woodward.

In a lecture before a packed crowd of Penn State students and community members Thursday in Eisenhower Auditorium, Woodward addressed issues of government communication and offered advice to the community regarding the infamous Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Woodward, the associate editor of The Washington Post, visited Penn State as a part of the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Woodward is best known for his original reporting of the Watergate scandal in 1972 alongside journalist Carl Bernstein. Their exposure of the scandal eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, as well as a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the Post.

Woodward compared government negotiations to those of marriage.

“You learn that the person on the other side of the table is your best friend,” he said. “That is the person who can give you what you want; that is the person you can get what you need from.”

He explained that, just as in marriage, the process needs to take a long time. He compared this to meetings between President Barack Obama and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, whose meetings, according to Woodward, run for hours.

“When you’re trying to work out real serious things, you have to spend time, you have to do all-nighters, you work all weekend,” said Woodward.

Woodward also said that we don’t always know enough about what is going on in government.

“If you ask me what to worry about the most, it’s secret government,” said Woodward. “We don’t really learn (when) government is hidden.”

Although Woodward didn’t spend much time on his experience with the Watergate scandal, he did take a moment to relate his experience as a young journalist in the midst of the scandal to another scandal close to the Penn State community.

Woodward explained that by 1973, although the truth about the Watergate scandal was out, most people did not believe it, including many within the offices of the Post.

He recalled meeting with the Post’s then-publisher Katharine Graham in January 1973. When she asked Woodward when the truth was going to come out, the 29-year-old journalist responded “never.”

“I remember she looked across the table and she had this pained, wounded look on her face,” recalled Wooward. “The kind of look you never want to see you your boss’s face. She said ‘Never? Don’t tell me never.’ ”

Woodward explained that Graham said the “never” means keep working on the story. She told him to take risks.

“I remember leaving the lunch thinking ‘Wow, she understands at her core the business we are in,’ ” he said. “It is not just printing what people say, it is not just covering things in a lackadaisical way, it is to dig for the truth. That is our obligation.”

And so Woodward proposed — and answered — the ultimate question to the Penn State audience.

“As a university, you have to ask yourself: ‘What is the business you are in?’ The business you are in is not winning football games,” he said. “Your job is to educate and take care of students.”