Backgrounder: Alicia Shepard
Some Americans may think that the story of the Watergate scandal — infamously reported by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — ended with former President Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974. But Alicia Shepard is not one of them.
Shepard always thought there was more to the story than governmental corruption, and she aimed to find out what in her recent book, Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate (2006), for which she investigated the lives of Watergate’s journalistic celebrities in its aftermath.
“I felt there was a ‘rest of the story’ to tell,” Shepard told the Mount Vernon Gazette in 2006. “It was such a significant time politically and journalistically, and I wanted to tell the story for future generations,” she said.
For the book, Shepard interviewed more than 175 people who were close to the reporting duo and scoured the archival materials Woodward and Bernstein sold to the University of Texas at Austin for $5 million in 2003.
In a 2006 book review for Opednews.com, Norm Goldman praised Shepard for her insight into the lives of the reinventors of gumshoe journalism. Goldman, an editor at Opednews.com, wrote that she “found a narrative voice that cuts away the fat from the bone.” He added that “her perceptions convey a rich portrait of two icons that succeeded, as she states, in entering the secret gardens of all levels of government that few other journalists ever visit.”
When Shepard investigated The Washington Post’s most famous investigative journalists, it was not the first time she’d demonstrated her ability to explore clandestine corners in pursuit of a story. She began her journalistic career in 1982, as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, four years after she graduated in 1978 from George Washington University with a bachelor's degree in English literature. In 1987, she moved on to write for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. Shepard also served as a senior writer for the American Journalism Review for nearly 10 years, and her work there on ethics and on the newspaper industry won her the National Press Club's top media criticism award on three occasions. In 2002, she co-authored Running Toward Danger: Stories Behind the Breaking News of 9/11, which chronicled press coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. She earned her master's in journalism from the University of Maryland in the same year. Most recently, in 2006, Shepard taught a journalism course about Watergate at American University. She currently contributes to Washingtonian and People magazines.
Now, two and a half decades into a distinguished career as an investigative reporter, Shepard admits her journalistic instincts are not so different than those that drove Woodward and Bernstein’s famously daring political investigations. “There is something in a reporter’s DNA that makes them want to work much harder when someone tells them ‘No,’” she said. “I love that challenge of being told you can't get some information. If someone stonewalls [me], it makes me want to dig further.”
Goldman, Norm. “Review: Woodward and Bernstein: Life In The Shadow Of Watergate.” Opednews.com. 9 November 2006. http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_norm_gol_061109_review_3a_woodward_and.htm.
Shepard, Alicia C. “The Author.” WoodwardandBernstein.net. http://www.woodwardandbernstein.net/author.html
Shepard, Alicia C. “Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein.” Washingtonpost.com. 27 October 2006. http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document_m=7d487333ed1f56493aa66528de39289e&_docnum=4&wchp=dGLbVzW-zSkVb&_md5=3f14d969382bbb2163b6cabbc7a1bba6
Wyshynski, Greg. “Notes on a Scandal.” Mount Vernon Gazette. 30 November 2006. http://www.woodwardandbernstein.net/reviews/connection/article.html