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Temper Tantrum?

Bob Woodward has been taking a lot of heat from fellow journalists for his decision not to report his role in the CIA leak affair until recently and for criticizing the investigation on television and radio. On Friday, FOB (that's friend of Bob) Bill Powers came to Woodward's defense, offering up a psychological explanation for the media feeding frenzy:
…when the Woodward-Plame news broke, the reaction was inevitable. Like a younger child long overshadowed by the star sibling, the media establishment finally had something bad on Bob. Finally, an occasion to say, "Oh, yeah, all those gigantic stories, the ones that have run on the front pages of America's newspapers for decades and set the bar for Washington journalism, well, they weren't valuable or even all that great. Woodward just got them because he's a suck-up to power."

Of course, the reality of journalism is that everyone has to suck up -- request the interview, make the small talk, form the connection, try to pry out the bits of information that journalists sausage into news. It just happens that some of us -- or rather, one of us -- is a lot better at getting news, news so fresh and inside it astounds even the insiders.

On Thursday, Tina Brown wrote (in classic TB style) that "Media life seems to have turned into one long cannibal feast, a fratricidal Thanksgiving dinner minus the giving of thanks. No sooner have we finished dining out on roast Judith Miller with stuffing than we are ready for a nice, big slice of Bob Woodward pie." She also looked at the outcry from a psychological perspective:
All the ranting about Woodward's journalistic ethics, however, is a displacement of anger against the real sources, so to speak, of the public's misery. Unable to get rid of the real origin of abusive power, the media set fire to yet another messenger.

Woodward works from home! Sometimes Woodward's editors don't hear from him for months! Woodward gets to write books without taking a leave! Woodward knows everybody! Everybody knows Woodward! Time to send Woodward to the woodpile! It must be the crowning irritation to smaller woodland animals that once again the Big Beast knew the name of a prime leaker before anyone else -- and that, once again, he wasn't talking till he was good and ready.

Younger sibling…smaller woodland animals – I'm sensing a theme here. (By the way, does that make the press corps Alvin, Simon or Theodore? I can never keep them straight.) Anyway, Sid Blumenthal's not having it:
Over the past month, however, [Woodward] has personified the stonewalling and covering up he once penetrated and shattered to launch his brilliant career. His unraveling is as surprising and symptomatic a story of George W. Bush's Washington as his making was of Nixon's.
And, finally, Mark Jurkowitz takes the longer view on the scandal – and the criticism:
This burst of somber but serious criticism of Woodward — a genuine journalistic icon for three decades and a symbol of the power and prestige of the mainstream media — may mark the closing of a distinct and important chapter in American journalism.

Woodward's Watergate exploits inspired a generation of starstruck baby boomers to flock to the news business and yielded a movie starring two of Hollywood's leading men, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. But the tarnishing of his reputation comes at a time when the media business is so desperate for heroes, that it has had to reach back half a century to find one: CBS's chain-smoking, crusading Edward R. Murrow, the protagonist of George Clooney's new film Good Night, and Good Luck.

The demythologizing of Woodward is occurring during a period when the kind of investigative reporting that built his legend faces a constellation of daunting obstacles, including declining newsroom resources, a secrecy-obsessed administration, and prosecutors and judges using subpoenas to poison the relationship between journalists and their confidential sources.