Yellow Journalism of No-Courage Yellow-Bellied Bob Woodward & the NYT
Woodward relies on the cooperation and anonymized accounts of top-level government officials — and ex-government officials who speak under the shield of “deep background.” That’s Woodwardspeak for perhaps lying, by disgruntled, pissed off losers who couldn’t do the job.
Deep background serves several purposes. Stylistically, it allows for a more readable narrative — because, unlike traditional reported works, Woodward doesn’t have to keep slowing down to attribute his information to sources. The critique here is that also can produce a misleading narrative that reads more authoritatively than it should.
The more noble-sounding motivation is that deep background better protects sources’ identities and allows them to speak more freely, by obscuring which information is coming from where, and even how many people it’s coming from.
The flip side of this is, of course, that anonymous sources may feel freer to lie or mislead if shielded from accountability. The practice also can shield the reporter from some accountability, as we don’t know whether any particular salacious anecdote is coming from one source or several.
The pretension to be able to recount the private thoughts of top government officials, months later, based on no attributed source, is a longstanding, somewhat absurd stylistic tic of Woodward’s books.
Conversely, certain other people can be very helpful indeed. They can take hours and hours of their time to talk, helping Woodward nail down dates and details, and offer up tons of newsworthy or juicy information.
There are likely other sources who are somewhat better disguised — the sourcing of the material about Secretary of Defense James Mattis, for instance, doesn’t seem clear to me — but these are the obvious ones.
All the White House officials listed here have left their positions with Trump, meaning they’re no longer at risk of being fired for doing so.
Beyond potential new wars, the closest thing to unifying themes for the book are Trump’s clashes with the economic and foreign policy establishments, some of his aides’ frantic attempts to get him not to disrupt the “global order,” and the disdain and frustration some of those aides have for the president
Keep that in mind. But also keep in mind that they were in the room; Woodward wasn’t — and you weren’t either. This book won’t put him or you there either. .