Elon professor calls Bob Woodward a ‘natural teacher’ following class visit

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author spoke with Associate Professor Rich Landesberg’s ‘Broadcast News Writing’ class, discussing the intricacies of investigative reporting with the School of Communications students.

A few hours before Bob Woodward addressed a crowded Alumni Gym at Elon University’s Fall Convocation, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author shared a more intimate setting in McEwen Communications Building.

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward, best known for reporting on the Watergate scandal, visited Associate Professor Rich Landesberg’s ‘Broadcast News Writing’ class on Sept. 29. The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter was the featured speaker at Elon University's Fall Convocation.
The renowned political investigative reporter and two-time Pulitzer winner visited Associate Professor Rich Landesberg’s “Broadcast News Writing” course, addressing more than 15 future journalists and broadcasters for nearly an hour.

Here’s a photo gallery of the Sept. 29 classroom visit.

While the author of 18 national bestsellers could have certainly pontificated about his storied career, and rightfully so, Woodward displayed a natural ease in the classroom setting, explained the Elon professor.

“Woodward is not just a great reporter, it turns out he is a natural teacher,” Landesberg said. “He went around the class and engaged the students. He didn’t stand up and tell war stories. He didn’t sit there and pat himself on the back. He wanted to know what students thought, how they would approach certain investigative reporting stories, and how they would approach stories he is still working on. He tried to learn as much from my students as I know my students were learning from him.”

Journalism major Jackie Pascale ’18, president of Elon’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of the Landesberg’s class, admitted she was awestruck by the encounter with the legendary reporter.

Woodward led an engaging 50-minute conversation with students, soliciting their thoughts and ideas on investigative journalism.
​“I learned about him last year in one of my journalism classes, but never did I think I’d actually get to meet with him, let alone talk about story generating and the state of today’s news media,” Pascale said. “We talk about legends in journalism as if they’re not real people, but there he was, in front of me and asking me questions by name.”

During the conversation with Woodward, the students were not shy about lobbing him questions or answering his questions in return. “He made them think,” Landesberg said. “He made them look at important issues and try to find out how they would cover the news and get information. He talked about how you find information that people don’t want you to find.”

Pascale explained that Woodward reinforced what she called the “keys of journalism” – never make assumptions, check your sources and yourself, and go knock on doors and get the story.

For Landesberg, Woodward’s classroom visit reminded him of his own undergraduate days at American University when his broadcast journalism professor invited guests such as Walter Cronkite to class. He still remembers the sense of awe he had during those classroom conversations with prominent reporters.

“The journalism that our students are going to pursue doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it’s journalism built on the shoulders of giants,” Landesberg said. “And, if you don’t know your history, you can’t be effective. But it’s one thing to read about Watergate in a history book. It’s quite another to shake the hand and ask questions of the person responsible for that kind of investigative reporting.”