US reporter urges more aggressive media

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bob Woodward, the US journalist who helped break the Watergate scandal, called Wednesday on reporters to take more time on stories after the US media's handling of the run-up to the Iraq war.

The celebrated Washington Post reporter said the media should have done more to verify whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had secret weapons as alleged by US President George W. Bush as a reason to go to war.

"We should have been much more aggressive," Woodward told a conference in Tokyo.

"I've thought what I could have done," he said. "The only way to find out if (weapons of mass destruction) really existed is to get on the ground."

But he said the round-the-clock deadlines of the modern media were hampering investigative journalism.

"It's a crazy media environment. We need to slow it down. We need weeks, months or even years to work on stories," Woodward said.

Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the story of the 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party office in the Watergate Hotel, ultimately leading to the resignation of US president Richard Nixon.

Woodward's latest book, "State of Denial," takes a critical look at Bush's invasion of Iraq.

"The real impulse is to make the government accountable so we do not get a secret government," Woodward said.

"The nightmare is that the president gets so closed off, so secretive, so convinced they are doing the right thing or just unable to face the possibility that they've made a very, very serious mistake," he said.

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