NEW YORK (AP) – Bob Woodward says he had no intention of releasing tapes of his interviews with President Donald Trump for his book “Rage” until CNN reporter Jamie Gangel and the author’s wife convinced him.
That turned out to make a huge difference in the book’s reception and impact, the veteran author and chronicler of presidential administrations said at an online conference hosted by CNN on Tuesday.
“It’s not the same as on the page,” Woodward said. “The microphone is really a microscope.”
Gangel teamed up with Elsa Walsh, herself an accomplished reporter who helped edit her husband’s books, to encourage the tapes’ release. They were first given to CNN and The Washington Post.
If a CNN reporter helps a news source make a decision that will increase the impact of a book highly critical of Trump, Gangel could raise some criticism. CNN is already one of the biggest targets of the president and his supporters.
But it’s an important role for journalists to advocate for public disclosure of as much information as possible, said Kathleen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin.
“I have no problem with a reporter telling an author that it is in the public interest for the tapes to be released,” Culver said.
CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who interviewed Woodward at the conference, also said that “we’re all better” for Gangel pushing on this point.
“In all fairness, the book wouldn’t have gotten the attention, the focus and the kind of ‘oh, it’s all true, we can hear it,’ if I hadn’t had those two women with me,” Woodward said.
“Rage” is currently number 1 on Amazon’s list of bestselling books and has probably sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
The former Watergate sleuth, with partner Carl Bernstein, was probably more aware of the power of presidential tapes than any journalist.
“We are learning about our own company even after 50 years, and quite dramatically for me,” he said in an interview after the CNN session.
Hillel Italy, Associated Press author, contributed to this report.