Jordan Owens ‘24 first learned about legendary journalist Bob Woodward in her high school history class. Natalie Vasileff ‘24 remembers watching All the President’s Men, the 1976 film about the Watergate scandal, when she was 8 years old. Neither imagined they would ever meet Woodward.
Earlier this month, the two Journalism majors interviewed him.
“We didn’t really panic until 15 minutes [before] he came into the room,” Vasileff said. “That’s when Jordan and I really started freaking out. We had to hug each other. We had to do breathing exercises… But, as soon as we introduced ourselves… the conversation started feeling very casual, and the nerves kind of melted away.”
Owens and Vasileff interviewed Woodward at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C., the building that became synonymous with the political scandal broken 50 years ago by Washington Post reporters Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The hotel served as the location of the Emerson-Blanquera 2022 Global Communication Summit.
Attended by roughly 200 Emerson alumni, current students, faculty, and industry professionals, this ninth annual summit reflected Emerson’s collaboration with longtime Catalonian partner Blanquerna – Universitat Ramon Lull through, “deliberative dialogue sessions with leading academic and global communication professionals.”
The theme, “Building Bridges in Uncertain Times: Finding Commonalities Through Communication” was reflected in the event’s range of topics, from elections to public health, the War on Ukraine, sports and women-led change, all within the context of communication. Since the Summit was held days before the midterm elections, Executive Director of the Emerson College Polling Center Spencer Kimball and his team analyzed projections and presented their research project, Unlocking the Hispanic Vote.
Other featured speakers included BBC correspondent Katty Kay and MSNBC/NBC news anchor Richard Lui. Ending the night was Woodward, the Summit’s keynote speaker. Following his address, he joined Owens and Vasileff in an upstairs conference room within the Watergate.
Mark Brodie, affiliated faculty member and digital narrative expert, said that Owen’s and Vasileff’s backgrounds and experiences in public diplomacy made them prime representatives to interview Woodward.
“An interview with Bob Woodward would be super intimidating for most journalism students, but these two young ladies accomplish the mission with a high degree of professionalism and confidence. They made us all very proud,” Brodie said.
Dr. Gregory Payne, chair of Communication Studies and co-director of the Emerson Blanquerna Center for Global Communication, said the interview was impressive to watch.
“It’s very interesting for us to have two students that are not seniors [to have] the chance to meet probably the most well-known journalist that we could have,” Payne said. “What was intriguing is that it started off with [Vasileff and Owens] asking questions, but then, [Woodward] was asking them questions because he was intrigued by what they had to say.”
To prepare for the interview, the two students video chatted to develop interview questions.
“We worked together to go through the basics,” Vasileff said. “We talked about asking about Watergate, about the Trump tapes. Then, we also thought about what we, as college students, want[ed] to ask him. When you look at interviews with him, he’s always talking with politicians or other journalists that are so much older than us. So we took questions in that kind of approach. How do you feel about younger journalists coming into the workforce today? What challenges do they face?”
Both women felt energized by Woodward’s answers and inspired by his hope for the future of journalism, a future that includes them.
“He’s very much a journalist for the people,” Owens said. “A lot of journalism around the world serves the government, promoting the government’s ideals. Being able to interview him really enforces that ideal of journalism [being] for the people… Together, we can build a better future.”
Isa is a sophomore journalism major minoring in media studies. She is from Omaha, Nebraska but loves coming back to the city. Outside of coursework, Isa is the Managing Editor of Your Magazine, the secretary of Emerson's chapter of NAHJ and a freelance writer for publications nationwide. She loves reading in the Common, going for long runs and sipping iced coffee.