Tuesday, April 20, 2010

YOUTH Forum Student Corresponds with Legendary Journalist Bob Woodward

Ben Friedman (second from right) chats with Bob Woodward at the pre-Forum dinner.

Ellington High School Freshman and Connecticut YOUTH Forum member Ben Friedman had the opportunity of a lifetime: to meet panelist Bob Woodward at the exclusive dinner before our last Forum, A World of Change. When Ben mentioned his interest in writing and journalism, Woodward encouraged Ben to send him a review of that evening's Forum, with the promise that he would offer his feedback. Ben followed up and, as promised, Woodward responded to him! You can check out their notes to one another below.

Hello Mr. Woodward,

My name is Benjamin Friedman. You may remember me from the dinner before the CT Forum show started. When you and I met, I had explained my interest in writing and you suggested I write a review or report on the show and e-mail it to you. This is that e-mail. I feel that it is necessary that I share some background information about myself before you read the review. I am fourteen years old and attend Ellington High School as a freshman. I am not certain what type of career I'd like to pursue, but reading and writing has captivated me for as long as I can remember.

However, I promised a review/report, so I will deliver upon that promise. This report was written on March 5th, a day after the Forum. I used my memory as best as I could to write the report. Despite my age and experience, I hope that if you plan to critique this report that you do so normally. I believe that the best way to improve myself as a writer is to take people's honest reactions to what I have written and use that as a tool to fix my mistakes. Let's begin.

The Connecticut Forum’s A World of Change show featured panelists Bob Woodward and Tina Brown. The show was moderated by Pulitzer Prize winner, Connie Schultz. With this combination of journalists, the night was ensured to be exciting. Bob Woodward, author of All of the President’s Men and one of the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal, provided intriguing anecdotes from his meetings with presidents and government officials. The experience of Tina Brown brought out commentary concerning process and changes. Connie Schultz did a fine job of directing the conversation on stage and made certain that all points of any question were answered.

The night proved to be hilarious, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Especially interesting was Woodward’s idea that “you can think you are so right, and then turn out to be completely wrong.” Everyone in the audience agreed with applause and a thoughtful, “Hmm.” However, the first half of the show strayed off the night’s true topic, change. Discussion was made that revolved around change, but it wasn’t until the second half of the show that most of the conversation was about change. The audience showed that they were listening intently and also thinking hard about what was said on stage by providing the panelists with interesting questions that they submitted. These questions led to discussion about change in America and the world, and also what change means.

It was not a night to be missed. A controversial topic and even more controversial panelists mixed together for an unforgettable evening. Mr. and Mrs. Sugarman, the founders of the Connecticut Forum, certainly stirred up interest in the Forum with this latest show. No doubt they will continue to provide successful shows and exciting panelists for years to come.

So there it is. I would like to say that nonfiction is not my strongest point, but I feel as if that would actually be me trying to excuse any errors I made. Hopefully you enjoy reading this review as much as I enjoyed meeting you and seeing the show.

Thank you for your time, and great job on stage!

Woodward responded:

Ben: I finally read your account of the Forum. You did an excellent job. I would suggest you put a specific thought in the first sentence to draw readers in. For example, you could have said something like this: Veteran journalist Bob Woodward last night that it is so easy to be sure you are right and you turn out to be dead wrong. (but use the quote as you did, and then cite the example of the Ford Pardon then something Tina Brown said. ) As my old editor used to say, What's the lead? What's the headline? What is new? Be as specific as you can as early in the account or story as possible. Nice work. Bob Woodward

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