The NBC newsman, as White House correspondent during the latter stages of the Watergate drama, said he occasionally called The Washington Post's Woodward for direction when he wasn't sure how all of the pieces of a story he had fit together.
"I just wanted to run things by them and get context," Brokaw recalled in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. "He was very generous."
The two men renewed their professional relationship for interviews surrounding Woodward's book on Mark Felt, his famed secret source during reporting on Watergate with partner Carl Bernstein. NBC's special "Tom Brokaw Reports: The Secret Man" airs 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
Felt was the former FBI official that Woodward turned to for guidance as the complex government scandal unfolded.
"They were younger than me," Brokaw said. "I was 33 and they were 28, 29. The stakes were huge and that's how I got to know him. I scored on some pretty good stories and I worked hard on getting it right constantly and I gather it made an impression on them."
In the intervening years, Brokaw said he engaged in the same parlor game as everybody else in trying to figure out who Deep Throat really was. He settled on Felt a couple of years ago in part following a conversation with Bernstein's ex-wife, Nora Ephron, but no one knew for sure until Felt came forward and Woodward and Bernstein confirmed it.
During the NBC special, Brokaw travels with Woodward to the Washington area parking garage where Woodward had late-night meetings with Felt.
"I went back late at night without him and we walked down to the end of the garage to the very pillar where Deep Throat used to materialize," he said.
Brokaw said he's often thought about how difficult it would be for a modern-day Woodward and Bernstein to break a similar story. The two young reporters and the Post faced intense pressure then, mostly from the White House, but now conservative bloggers and talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would ratchet up the volume, he said.
As an electronic reporter, Brokaw said many of the hours that he used to spend reporting would now be taken up making multiple appearances on MSNBC or shows like "Hardball." And newspaper reporters would be under pressure to post stories quickly on their employers' Web sites, he said.
Although all administrations have their scandals, Brokaw said, "I don't think you'll ever have as acute an abuse of power as you had there, because there are too many places for people to go to talk about it."
By David Bauder