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Affirming Deep Throat

Columnist Jonah Goldberg today begs the various usual Deep Throat suspects to not just rely on Bob Woodward’s version of history after their deaths. He wants the real Deep Throat to swear out an affidavit–or, he says, sworn video testimony–explaining whether they’re the Real Thing or not.

Since the intrepid no-first-names-needed Woodward and Bernstein have said they’ll reveal Deep Throat’s identity after he dies, speculation has been running wild in D.C. as of late as many of the suspects are getting old and getting ill.

In making his case for a posthumous accounting, Goldberg points to questions of whether Deep Throat ever existed, and the fact that absent any outside confirmation, we’ll all just have to take Bob Woodward’s word for it whenever the obit magically appears.

He points to the memoirs of Woodward and Bernstein’s agent David Obst, which says that Deep Throat didn’t exist in early drafts of “All the President’s Men” until an editor said it needed a stronger literary device. Obst also questioned some of the more famous details of Deep Throat’s secrecy:

Woodward was supposed to have signaled to Throat that he needed to talk by putting a cloth-topped stick in a flowerpot and moving it to the back of his balcony. If Throat saw the signal, they would meet at a prearranged underground garage. Inconveniently, however, the pot couldn’t be seen from the street. In other words, this major Washington figure was supposed to drive to Woodward’s building, get out of his car, and walk down Woodward’s alley every single day. That’s not very secretive behavior for someone trying to stay secret.

A similar problem is Woodward’s claim that Throat would secretly mark page 20 of Woodward’s home-delivered New York Times with a hand-drawn clock marking the time of their next meeting. But Woodward’s Times was delivered to the building’s lobby, writes Obst, “unmarked and stacked in a pile” before 7 a.m. How did Deep Throat figure out the right paper? And why would a super-secret, high-profile source devise a system that required regularly skulking in a public lobby before dawn?

Goldberg’s column leaves us this question: If Deep Throat falls in a forest, will he make a sound?

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