Review: Bob Woodward’s Masterclass (Investigative Journalism)

Bob Woodward teaches investigative journalism - review fo masterclass

Bob Woodward, bestselling author of ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘The Final Days‘ has a Masterclass. He is one of the world’s most recognised journalists: part of a team of key reporters responsible for uncovering the Watergate scandal, leading to the eventual investigation and resignation of President Richard Nixon. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes.

Both the  New York Times, and Time magazine have called the Woodward-Bernstein Watergate coverage, ‘the single greatest reporting effort of all time’ and ‘the most influential’. In his Masterclass Bob Woodward teaches INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM.

“If there are things that are said that are not true or things in the report that can be contradicted, it’s our job to unearth them.”

—Bob Woodward

Investigative journalism course content

Let’s be clear, this is definitely NOT just a documentary film about the Watergate scandal. While Watergate and what happened is central to the course content (and certainly discussed in detail) it’s used as a platform to examine Mr Woodward’s principles and methodologies to teach you how to:-

  • tap into a story
  • hunt down documents
  • find sources and build relationships
  • conduct meaningful interviews that get to the facts
  • develop theories and outlines
  • uncover the truth
  • write, edit and publish the story
  • deal with sensitive information

The course follows a clear and logical structure with Mr Woodward speaking openly about his career as a whole. He illustrates his points and reinforces the learning materials by relating his experiences interviewing sources including US Presidents Nixon, Ford, Bush, Carter, and Obama. The course was filmed at the beginning of Mr Trump’s presidency so he speaks candidly about his initial interviews with him.

democracy dies in darkness - bob woodward

During the course Mr Woodward lets a group of students from his Yale journalism seminar interrogate and critique him about both the Trump and Obama interviews (full transcript of each interview may be downloaded from the resource section).

He also speaks candidly about the mistakes he has personally made during the course of his 40 year career. Mr Woodward uses those errors as a powerful instrument to emphasise (not just the importance) but the obligation that journalists have to uncover the truth by conducting appropriate research using accepted methodologies.

Who is this course for?

If you are thinking about a career in journalism, this is definitely the course for you — it will give you a good idea if journalism is a good fit. At the same time established journalists could certainly benefit from his career insights and candid discourse.

Bob Woodward has published 18 books, and 12 have topped the bestseller list — most recently ‘Fear‘ (about the Trump administration) which debuted last week as #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. So non-fiction writers have plenty to learn about research, gathering information and interviews.

Anyone wanting to get started as a freelance journalist could use this course as an entry point. By undertaking each of the assignments and then completing the course project — a 3,500–4,500 word investigative reporting project (examine a newsworthy event going on around you than write it up, edit it, and pitch it to a local news outlet) — you could really be on your way.

Finally, as a blogger I found the course extremely valuable. Mr Woodward stated in the opening that anyone can be a journalist, and in this digital age (in a sense) we all are.  We seek facts, reality, and truth, so bloggers could certainly benefit by learning more about how to conduct good research and present a great story.

IMPORTANT: this an online short course and not a four year Bachelor’s Degree, so it could never be a comprehensive guide to becoming a journalist. But it can certainly get you started as a freelancer. It’s designed to help you decide if you want to be one (and possibly inspire a new generation of journalists), or hone your skills if you already are one, or help you research and write better stories if you are a private blogger or author.

“In this era, most people are skeptical, distrustful of the new media. Everyone is a journalist. You gather information, verify it and communicate it.”

—Bob Woodward

Course resources

What you get with the class:-

  • Video lessons: 24 video lessons accessed via the website or App (please note the videos in this Masterclass cannot be downloaded to watch offline).
  • Workbook: 52 page class workbook (PDF format)
  • Full transcript: Obama interview
  • Full transcript: Trump interview
  • Video Q&A sessions: students ask questions (by video) and Bob sends his own video response. You also have the ability to submit your own video question.
  • Student Hub: interact with a network of students from all over the world also taking the course. Ask questions, compare assignment notes or just start an important  conversation.

review of bob woodward's masterclass

Technical stuff

To access the course I used Safari browser from MAC, as well as the iOS App on both iPad and iPhone. I didn’t have any problems at all accessing the course materials from either platform. All the videos and resources are available from both the website as well as the App.

You should note though, that the videos in this course cannot be downloaded and viewed in the App offline. Many other courses in the Masterclass series can be downloaded, but the feature is NOT available in Bob Woodward’s Masterclass.

Bob Woodward's Masterclass - workbook
A companion 52-page workbook accompanies the course. Apart from providing hard-copy review notes from each video, the workbook provides links to additional resources as well as takeaway assignments and personal projects.

Overall Summary

Bob Woodward’s Masterclass is one of the best online courses I have ever completed. Mr Woodward shares his real-world experience and the methods that have made him one of the world’s most important journalists.  Mr Woodward is an excellent speaker and makes his points clearly, everything he says adds value to the course materials.

At the same time the Masterclass platform is robust and easy to navigate, plus  the materials are well presented and professionally made. The cost of the course is USD$90 for lifetime access.  5/5 stars from me.

IMPORTANT: this blog post contains affiliate links, which means I may be paid a commission if you purchase a course from Masterclass after clicking on one of the links. If you have any concerns please click here to read how I approach affiliate marketing. This is an excellent course which I have completed in full, and I am an active (fully paid) annual subscriber of Masterclass and I just love their content. That said, always conduct your own research to make sure the course will suit your needs before spending money.

© 2018 Melinda J. Irvine

4 responses to “Review: Bob Woodward’s Masterclass (Investigative Journalism)”

  1. grumpytyke Avatar

    Excellent review. If I was still working I’d definitely spend the $90 based on your review.

    1. Melinda J. Irvine Avatar

      Thanks for that. It was such an excellent course I wanted to do it justice. Appreciate the feedback. Mel.

  2. ksbeth Avatar

    What an amazing journalist

    1. Melinda J. Irvine Avatar

      Yes, I’m so inspired by his open willingness to critique his own methods and provide honest feedback about where he went wrong and things he could have done better. Like you say, amazing.