In journalism, the coin of the realm is access - and the wealthiest journalist in Washington, by far, is Bob Woodward.
He has a desk on the coveted north wall of the Washington Post newsroom, but is, colleagues say, seldom there. Though still best known for his role in breaking the Watergate scandal of the Nixon years, for two decades Mr. Woodward has been busy writing book after book on the inner workings of Washington - from the supposedly impenetrable Supreme Court and Federal Reserve to successive occupants of the Oval Office.
Now Woodward's name is again on all lips and his face on TV talk shows, as his book "Plan of Attack" soars up best-seller lists. This book, about the buildup to the Iraq war, may not be enough to inspire a second generation of college students to take up their pens for the Fourth Estate, as Watergate did, but it does cement Woodward's reputation as the Detective Columbo of journalism - unassuming, a bit bumbling perhaps, but a guy who always, always lands his source.
"His access has snowballed over the years. Originally he had none, but now he is a mammoth of journalistic access," says Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. "He is the New York Yankees of access, while the rest of us are in the press room playing the role of the Montreal Expos."
While most White House correspondents count their blessings if Karl Rove's secretary returns their phone calls, and The New York Times waits to score an interview with President Bush, Woodward interviewed more than 75 officials and staff from the White House, State Department, Defense Department, and CIA for "Plan of Attack." Secretary of State Colin Powell is widely believed to have been a key source, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went on record in a three-hour interview, and Mr. Bush gave him 3-1/2 hours, over the course of two days.
How does Woodward do it?