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Bob Woodward MasterClass Review: Investigative Journalism

If you’re thinking about taking Bob Woodward’s MasterClass, you’ve come to the right place. In our honest review, we’ll tell you everything about the content, delivery, benefits, and potential drawbacks of the course.

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Bob Woodward Teaches Investigative Journalism: Our Verdict (2023)

COURSE Rating

4.6 / 5

Bob Woodward’s MasterClass is dedicated to investigative journalism and effective ways of uncovering the truth. As an award-winning journalist and The Washington Post editor, Bob Woodward provides practical tips, honest advice, and insightful stories that can help you find and write a compelling story. This MasterClass is a must-watch for aspiring journalists, but it’s also suitable for non-writers who want to get a glimpse of the exciting world of journalism.

Pros

  • Learning from an iconic journalist
  • Fascinating stories
  • Versatile lessons
  • Useful tips

Cons

  • Heavily based on Woodward’s experience

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For investigative journalists, Bob Woodward is a living legend.

Although he is best known for breaking and reporting the Watergate scandal, I was drawn to his class for other reasons.

I simply wanted to learn more about how investigative journalists hunt down documents, find sources, and publish secrets. And is there a better person to learn this from than Bob Woodward?

Well, the moment the course began, I was aware that there probably isn’t.

The introduction of the course – with the music, video clips, and the atmosphere that built tension – got me really hyped, and that’s not the case with every MasterClass. 

But did the course continue to be as exciting and immersive as it started?

I’ll tell you everything about my learning experience in the following paragraphs.

Table of Contents

What is the Bob Woodward MasterClass?

Bob Woodward teaches Investigative Journalism” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a subscription-based platform known for offering video-based classes taught by experts in the field. 

Bob Woodward is an American journalist and author who earned a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting on the Watergate scandal. He is currently an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1971.

As one of the most prominent investigative journalists of our time, Bob Woodward certainly has a lot to say about reporting, finding sources, publishing secrets, and writing stories. In his comprehensive MasterClass, he shares secrets of the trade without hesitation, offering a fascinating insight into his experiences and investigative journalism in general.

In the course, there are 24 lessons with a duration of 4 hours and 33 minutes in total.

the instructor, Bob Woodward
The instructor, Bob Woodward

Who is Bob Woodward?

Bob Woodward is an American journalist, author, and current associate editor of The Washington Post.

Woodward started working for The Washington Post as a reporter in 1971, shortly before he teamed up with Carl Bernstein to uncover one of the biggest scandals in American history. For reporting on what is now known as the Watergate Scandal, Woodward won a Pulitzer Prize.

Over the years, he has won nearly every American journalism award and established himself as one of the most prominent investigative journalists. He has also written 21 books on American politics and current affairs, 13 of which have become best-sellers.

Who is Bob Woodward’s MasterClass for?

The target audience for Bob Woodward’s MasterClass is wide.

Obviously, the class is geared towards aspiring journalists. Whether you’re a student or a beginner journalist, Bob’s MasterClass is a must-watch.

The lessons where he discusses his interviews with students are particularly useful for anyone just starting out with journalism. These lessons are concise, useful, and insightful.

Furthermore, Bob shares a ton of stories from his exciting, rich career as an investigative journalist. So, for those who want to discover more about Watergate and other big stories he was involved in, these lessons are a real treat.

These behind-the-scenes lessons that show how it all began and how Mark Felt became a whistleblower called Deep Throat are great for anyone interested in politics and journalism.

That said, this course is suitable for a wide range of learners, beginners and seasoned journalists alike.

What does Bob Woodward’s MasterClass cover?

As I just mentioned, this MasterClass offers a fascinating insight into the Watergate Scandal and other stories that emerged during Bob’s career.

I wasn’t familiar with many of the facts in this course, which may not be the case for everyone else. Nevertheless, I’m sure the course offers some never-heard-before stories.

Even if you’re familiar with most of the historical facts, you probably haven’t heard about them from Bob Woodward’s mouth, not in this format, at least. Bob is a great teacher, and he balances practical tips and stories that serve as an example really well.

He talks about developing stories, building trust with sources, interviewing, and dealing with secrets and sensitive information.

The course is heavily based on Bob’s career and experiences, though. Nevertheless, these stories are here to show the lessons he learned. This way, you can use his tips, advice, and even mistakes to hone your skills and kickstart your career.

In terms of content, here is a quick overview of all the lessons:

  • Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Bob introduces himself and the course.
  • Lessons 2-3 cover Bob’s guiding principles and methods of finding a compelling story worth exploring.
  • Lesson 4 is a discussion between Bob and students from his Yale journalism course.
  • Lesson 5 reveals how to approach in-depth reporting.
  • Lessons 5-10 contain Bob’s tips on how to hunt down the documents, find sources, and generally uncover the truth. He also talks about the Watergate Scandal and how Mark Felt became Deep Throat.
  • Lessons 11-12 are about building trust with sources and the importance of growing your roster of sources through communication and relationships.
  • Lesson 13 is another discussion with students. This time, Bob and his students talk about his interview with Barack Obama.
  • Lesson 14 is about building a relationship with a source over time. Bob takes his relationship with then-CIA director Bill Cassey as an example.
  • Lessons 15-17 are dedicated to conducting interviews from start to finish.
  • Lesson 18 contains the lessons Bob learned from various editors.
  • Lesson 19 includes common pitfalls and challenges reporters run into when developing the theory of the case.
  • Lessons 20-22 cover the process of writing and polishing a story. Bob also talks about publishing secrets and dealing with information that involves public safety.
  • Lessons 23-24 are the final lessons, where Bob shares what he learned from his mistakes and provides his opinion on the current state of journalism.

My favorite lessons from Bob Woodward’s MasterClass

Honestly, I think this is one of the best MasterClasses I’ve taken so far. It’s exciting, insightful, and inspiring, covering a variety of topics and Bob Woodward’s fascinating stories.

At times, I felt like I was watching a documentary.

On the other hand, I wrote down many notes, as Bob keeps sharing good advice and useful tips.

That said, it’s hard to pick the lesson I liked the most, so here are three of my personal favorites.

Finding the story

Bob Woodward discussing the importance of finding interesting stories
Bob Woodward explaining the value of finding interesting stories

In this insightful and inspiring lesson, Bob digs deeper into the importance of finding important, interesting stories.

He mentions the term ‘bacon cooler stories’ – a moment when you have bacon on your fork while reading something, and the story is so great, the bacon never makes it to your mouth and cools.

Bob also suggests that if a more interesting story appears, you should pivot.

Students dig into Woodward’s interview with Trump

Bob Woodward and his students engaging in a discussion about his interview with Donald Trump
Bob and his students discussing his interview with Donald Trump

This lesson, where Bob sits down with his students to break down his interview with Donald Trump, was really refreshing.

The whole setting felt very natural, unlike some lessons in other MasterClasses, and students asked good questions.

For instance, after listening to short audio clips of the interview, they asked why Bob tried to interrupt Trump a few times and why he didn’t ask some burning questions regarding the immigration ban, sexist comments, and so on.

Bob answered each question in a concrete, knowledgeable way, providing useful advice that is applicable to any interview.

Publishing secrets

Bob Woodward explaining his approach to reporting on secrets
Bob explains his approach to reporting on secrets

In this interesting lesson, Bob talks about the challenges of handling information that involves the public’s safety, national security, and government intelligence.

As Bob suggests, you need to be very careful when dealing with big secrets, and you need to examine what the impact of sharing them might be.

Working with intelligence documents is especially tricky, but Bob believes it’s essential to get the truth out in a proper way.

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

Annual plans are typically available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually) for the Individual plan, providing access to MasterClass courses on one device, $180 a year for the Duo plan (two devices), and $240 a year for the Family plan (six devices).

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 180+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that MasterClass is currently running an end-of-year special offer which gives you 40% off your annual membership – as MasterClass rarely gives any discounts to speak of, I would recommend you take advantage of this beore it expires.

What I liked about Bob Woodward’s MasterClass

As you’ve probably already noticed, I really enjoyed Bob’s class.

Although it’s relatively long, it simply flew by.

The lessons are dynamic, captivating, and insightful, offering a fascinating glimpse into an exciting world of investigative journalism.

In other words, I would recommend this course to anyone interested in pursuing a career in journalism.

Here are some of the main reasons I think this course is worth every penny.

Learning from an iconic journalist

Needless to say, Bob Woodward is a skilled journalist. But he is also a great teacher – eloquent, focused, and passionate, yet very calm and friendly. If you’re an aspiring journalist, learning from him is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss.

Fascinating stories

I felt very comfortable and relaxed during the course. At the same time, I was very curious and excited, and in some moments, I was on the edge of my seat.

I think the reason I felt so immersed was the topics of the course. Bob talks about revealing huge political secrets, collaborating with the CIA, talking with sources, accessing sensitive documents, etc…

If you’re not a high-profile investigative journalist, it’s almost as if you’re watching David Fincher’s movie.

But as Bob suggests, the business of journalism is to cross lines, and that’s precisely what he managed to prove with his own experiences.

Versatile lessons

Unlike some other MasterClasses, this course feels fast-paced and dynamic. I think the reason for this is the versatility of the content and the format.

Bob’s MasterClass is a mixture of practical tips, historical facts, audio and video clips, discussions with students, and Bob’s honest advice.

Plus, the course is well-structured and filmed with excellent production quality, which adds to the captivating atmosphere and the quality of the overall learning experience.

Useful tips

While talking about his experiences as a Washington Post journalist, Bob provides many useful tips. In many cases, he clearly points out what was the lesson in that specific situation.

You can also learn a lot from his interview discussions with students, where he gives straightforward answers to their questions and elaborates why he did what he did while conducting those interviews.

Potential drawbacks of Bob Woodward’s MasterClass

Although I genuinely enjoyed this course, there are some things that could be categorized as a disadvantage…  

Heavily based on Woodward’s experience

The subjective nature of MasterClass can often interfere with the usefulness of the course.

And this is one of those cases.

In his MasterClass, Bob Woodward talks a lot about his experiences. In each chapter, there’s a story from his career. The lessons regarding Watergate are especially based on specific situations he went through.

Although I found these stories interesting and immersive, I can understand that someone who is already well-familiar with them may find these parts a bit daunting.

So, it all depends on your expectations and previous knowledge.

Review conclusion: Is Bob Woodward’s MasterClass worth it?

“Anyone can be a journalist, “says Bob Woodward at the beginning of his course.

But not everyone can be a good journalist – the kind whose stories have a major impact.

Bob’s stories certainly made a huge impact, especially the one regarding the Watergate Scandal. Thanks to his skills, curiosity, courage, and a keen eye for what matters at the moment, Bob Woodward has uncovered many truths during his career.

Learning from such a respected journalist truly felt like a privilege. However, simply being aware of who he is is not enough; some other MasterClass reassured me of that. But Bob knows how to keep his learners focused and engaged. He chooses his stories and words carefully, and he speaks in a thoughtful yet understandable way.

Thanks to Bob’s expertise and teaching skills, interesting topics, and insightful interview breakdowns, Bob Woodward’s MasterClass is as exciting as it gets.

That said, I believe it’s suited for a wider audience, from ambitious journalists to those who simply want to find out more about one of the most prominent journalists of our time.

End-of-Year sale: 40% off your MasterClass annual subscription (time-limited offer)