When Your Star Turns to Supernova
Kevin Salwen on In the News
OK, all you management kibbitzers, what do you do now? You're Len Downie, big boss at the Washington Post. You learn that your superstar investigative journalist and probably the single biggest name in print journalism -- Bob Woodward -- was the very first journalist to learn the identity of the CIA agent Valerie Plame in that lurid (and ultraconvoluted) Washington flareup over the war and leaks.
And then you learn that your superstar broke paper guidelines by withholding information from his bosses. 'I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner,' Woodward, who testified in the CIA leak investigation Monday, said in an interview with his own paper. 'I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's job number one in a case like this. . . .
'I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.'
That kind of argument did little for the Post's media critic, Howard Kurtz, who wrote this remarkable paragraph about a colleague:
The belated revelation that Woodward has been sitting on information about the Plame controversy reignited questions about his unique relationship with The Post while he writes books with unparalleled access to high-level officials, and about why Woodward denigrated the Fitzgerald probe in television and radio interviews while not divulging his own involvement in the matter.
Downie has seen other big papers eat their superstar offspring: The New York Times of course fired Judith Miller (it wasn't called a firing but after your hot-shot columnist Maureen Dowd says in print that Miller can't come back, she ain't coming back). Several years back, the Chicago Tribune waved goodbye to their No. 1 readership draw, Bob Greene, after a dating scandal.
So, is Woodward a goner? Or do you stand by the man who kept the Watergate secrets honorably for 3 decades and accept his apology? What's your management call?