Journalism professor Mark Feldstein is working on writing the first published biography of former investigative reporter and columnist Jack Anderson.
The 81 year-old Anderson was once at the top of Richard Nixon’s “enemies list,” a compilation of his administration’s main political adversaries. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for revealing the Nixon administration’s leanings toward Pakistan in the country’s war with India.
Anderson stopped writing his column in July due to his 18-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
In preparation for the book, Feldstein went through personal interviews, archived documents and declassified Nixon tapes to reveal the life and legacy of a Washington reporter dedicated to uncovering government misconduct. Feldstein said he expects the book to be finished in a few years.
Feldstein describes Anderson as the “missing link of the muckrakers of a century ago and the button-down investigative reporter of today.” Muckrakers were reporters who uncovered social injustices.
Feldstein began his career in journalism in the 1970s as an intern for Anderson.
“Anderson leaves behind a fascinating legacy of big strengths and big weaknesses,” Feldstein said. He describes Anderson, a Mormon from Salt Lake City, as a man who did not drink alcohol and would occasionally drink caffeine, but felt guilty afterward.
Feldstein said many of Anderson’s journalistic tendencies were “outrageous,” citing his willingness to rifle through garbage, electronically eavesdrop on conversations and run off with secret documents and classified materials.
After 25 years of working as a broadcast journalist and investigative reporter for CNN, NBC’s “Dateline,” “The Today Show,” MSNBC and ABC News in New York, Feldstein made the transition to academia and began to investigate Anderson’s role as a pivotal figure in journalism history.
Students interested in learning more about the history of investigative journalism or the life of Jack Anderson may be surprised to find that they do not have to wait for the biography to be published.
This year, the historical papers of Jack Anderson will be located in the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research institute housed in Gelman Library. The archive has obtained more than five million pages of declassified documents from the federal government since 1985, providing an extensive resource of primary source materials for scholars, journalists and historians.
As part of the Journalism Oral History Project, an initiative Feldstein organized that exists mainly to document the personal lives of reporters, students are able to learn firsthand about the lives of reporters.
GW graduate Elizabeth Stephans helped with the Oral History Project by going to Anderson’s home and looking through his alphabetically organized articles.
?”The Journalism Oral History Project was a way to make Professor Feldstein’s research not only available through a published book, but also to make students an integral part of the research,” Stephans said.
Students who were actively engaged in the project also learned about the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law ensuring public access to U.S. government records.
“Agencies of the U.S. government are required by FOIA to disclose most government records,” graduate Jacqueline Donohue said.
While working on the Journalism Oral History Project, Donohue sent dozens of requests to government agencies from the CIA to the FBI.
During her searches through the National Archives, she located a secret Nixon White House tape that had never been exposed before. The tape proved that President Nixon suggested bribing a witness to harm the reputation of Anderson and deflect a scandal that the journalist had uncovered.