Barry Sussman is the editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project. Along with Bob Giles, the Nieman curator at the time, and Murrey Marder, sponsor of the Watchdog Project, he determined the goals and features for this Web site.
Sussman was a Washington Post editor for 22 years, holding the positions of city editor, special Watergate editor, special projects editor/national, pollster and public opinion analyst and columnist for the Washington Post National Weekly Edition.
He is the author of three books. The first, "The Great Coverup: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate," now in its fourth edition, is available in print and in Kindle and other ebook formats. It was named one of the best books of the year in 1974 by the New York Times; ten years after its publication John Dean called it "the best book on Watergate." His other books are "What Americans Really Think," published in 1987 and dealing in the main with public opinion and politics; and "Maverick, A Life in Politics," written with Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., and published in 1995.
In recent years Sussman has worked as an international news media consultant with assignments at newspapers in Spain, Portugal and in seven Latin American countries. He is a board member of the group, Innovaton Media Consulting.
Looking back at Nieman Watchdog
COMMENTARY | August 20, 2012
Barry Sussman reflects on the accomplishments of the Nieman Watchdog website, and the challenges to watchdog journalism that remain ahead.
Should the press interview grand jurors? Why not?
SHOWCASE | May 03, 2012
Barry Sussman describes how it was that the Washington Post’s Watergate reporters came to call on grand jurors, and says that, as an editor, if a similar situation arose he would make the same assignment again.
Mann and Ornstein can’t take it anymore
COMMENTARY | April 28, 2012
Two mainstay Washington political scientists urge the press to cease its distorting ‘even-handed’ reporting and take note that the Republican party, now so extreme, is the core reason for dysfunctional government in the nation’s capital.
Did Mark Felt even know he was Deep Throat?
COMMENTARY | April 12, 2012
A new book makes the case that Felt, the No. 2 man in the FBI during Watergate, fed information to the press to make his boss look bad and get his job. No idealism there. Barry Sussman, who was the Washington Post’s Watergate editor, has a close-in view on all this.
Anybody but Romney -- except Gingrich, Santorum or Paul
COMMENTARY | February 02, 2012
The low Florida primary turnout -- a decline of 15 percent from 2008 -- continues to show GOP voters as indifferent to their presidential candidates. Only South Carolina, where Gingrich won big, seems to have been an exception.
Are the candidates repelling Republican voters?
ASK THIS | January 15, 2012
GOP voter turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire has been lackluster. Reporters should pay attention to how many Republicans (not including crossover independents) vote in the upcoming primaries, and not just to the order of finish. Is the pattern continuing?
Why not make a Fox question standard in all news polls?
ASK THIS | December 07, 2011
A new NY Times/CBS News poll finds Fox viewers in Iowa are nearly twice as opposed to Mitt Romney as are non-Fox viewers. It would be nice to know just how much of that difference is the result of biased coverage on an impressionable audience. Polls like this could help tell us, and also might expose, as Barry Sussman points out, the extent to which Fox coverage is tearing down President Obama’s approval ratings week after week.
Kenneth Dahlberg’s role in Watergate
SHOWCASE | October 11, 2011
Dahlberg died Oct. 4th at age 94; his name will be prominent as long as people follow the Watergate story. Here Barry Sussman, who was the Washington Post’s Watergate editor, explains why.
What about drones now? What about Afghanistan?
ASK THIS | May 02, 2011
With bin Laden gone, isn’t it time for serious discussion of an Afghanistan war pullout? And how much of a new honeymoon period does President Obama earn, if any, for the military’s incredibly precise 40-minute maneuver?
What is the GOP looking for in Bill Cronon’s emails?
ASK THIS | April 04, 2011
The University of Wisconsin complies in part with the state's Republican Party's chilling request for a history professor's emails – but withholds those 'that fall within the orbit of academic freedom'
More questions for Obama about Bradley Manning
ASK THIS | March 12, 2011
Bradley Manning, the alleged Wikileaks source, has been held in maximum confinement, under harsh conditions, in a military prison for eight months. At his press conference on March 11, the President said he had looked into the Pentagon’s handling of Manning and that it meets “our basic standards.” Really?
Is Middle East unrest causing oil price spikes? Maybe not.
COMMENTARY | March 07, 2011
Reporters and editors, based on past experience, should examine the extent to which stock market speculators and the oll companies are pushing gas prices to the $4 mark. For guidance, here are some questions and leads from experts who wrote about the subject for Nieman Watchdog in the period 2005 to 2009, when oil and gas prices last shot through the roof.
America, Afghanistan, and the Facebook revolutions
ASK THIS | February 22, 2011
As the rebellions that began in Tunisia and Egypt keep spreading and the vast power of mobilized public opinion becomes more and more apparent, it seems only a matter of time before anti-war dissenters (the majority of Americans) get in on the act and move to end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
‘Killer ate fried chicken, waited’
SHOWCASE | November 17, 2010
Herman and me: Barry Sussman’s personal recollections and tribute to Herman Giles, a big-time, smalltown newspaperman, tough as nails and a great mentor. Those were the days.
A Watergate lesson: Secret money means payoffs, bribes and extortion
COMMENTARY | October 19, 2010
Some are comparing today’s secret campaign contributions with those in the Watergate scandal. Barry Sussman describes the criminal money fraud in the early Nixon years and concludes that, bad as it was, the problem is much worse now.
Was it the four-letter words, used over and over, that brought down McChrystal?
ASK THIS | June 28, 2010
Would the Rolling Stone piece have had the same impact without so many curse words? And has the press focused too much on the personal slurs, and not enough on writer Michael Hastings's informative but bleak assessment of the war in Afghanistan?
An interview with the winner of the Pulitzer grand prize
SHOWCASE | April 30, 2010
“You don’t have to be at the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal to do important work,” says Daniel Gilbert, the young, newly celebrated reporter on a small paper in Southwest Virginia. Gilbert’s work uncovered callousness, red tape and corporate neglect (to put it mildly) that was keeping natural gas royalties, often sorely needed, from going to thousands of people in Appalachia.
McClatchy survey finds huge support – 2 to 1 – for health care reform
COMMENTARY | March 05, 2010
An opinion poll double take: On first blush, a McClatchy/Ipsos poll shows only a minority in favor of health care reform – but that’s because many in the survey want stronger measures than Obama is seeking.
Is it time yet for budget reconciliation?
ASK THIS | February 15, 2010
With the Senate in gridlock will the Democrats turn to a process that requires only a simple majority for passage, not a supermajority? If not, why not? And if they do, is there a June 15 deadline?
New survey tells it like it is in Afghanistan: Primitive
COMMENTARY | January 18, 2010
The latest poll by ABC News, BBC and ARD German TV shows disgust with corruption, anger at the Taliban, and widespread poverty almost beyond the imagination of Americans.
A Marine general finds retirement pays very nicely
SHOWCASE | December 15, 2009
USA Today weighs into a case of what it calls ‘profiting from access,’ laying out how one retired general has possibly made more than a million dollars in the past six years from the military aside from his pension, not including income from military contractors.
‘Pay the man,’ the judge said, and that’s how a career got started
SHOWCASE | October 03, 2009
As he tells it, Jon Alpert, winner of the 2009 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence, had an eye out for injustice early on.
You thought it was only Republicans who’d block a government-run health insurance alternative? Maybe not.
ASK THIS | July 13, 2009
Twenty-one Senate Democrats oppose or are undecided about a public option. Reporters should ask them why, and check out their ties to the health and insurance industries.
OK, what are we expecting for black turnout?
ASK THIS | October 16, 2008
Reporters and editors shouldn’t be waiting for Election Day to report Republican efforts to suppress the black vote or the Democrats’ drive for a high turnout. They should also ask the pollsters a question or two.
Anybody read the L.A. Times? Rolling Stone?
COMMENTARY | October 13, 2008
Leading news organizations, the TV networks and cable news political operations are disregarding well-documented news stories that by themselves, if true, could cost John McCain the election. The media are hiding the news, not reporting it.
Fight spin. Don't be afraid. Know your subject
COMMENTARY | October 01, 2008
Nieman fellows urge reporters to get back to basics in covering the next White House administration. (Second of two parts)
The press gets a low grade for pre-Iraq war reporting
COMMENTARY | September 29, 2008
In a new Nieman Watchdog survey, in part a post mortem on an immensely important period for journalism, Nieman fellows in the U.S. and around the world are highly critical of the main American news organizations. (First of two parts.)
An invitation from the Nieman Foundation
SHOWCASE | September 28, 2008
What: Presentation of the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence, followed by a workshop of leading writers and editors on that subject. When: Oct. 7, 2 to 5 PM. Where: The Newseum in Washington, DC.
Ask about McCain’s Navy career, aside from the POW part of it
ASK THIS | September 02, 2008
McCain has made his military experience a key reason to vote for him. Reporters should examine his military records, including reports on air mishaps he was involved in before he was shot down over Hanoi. And McCain should see to it that all reports are made public.
'I guess you can call it torture'
SHOWCASE | June 16, 2008
McClatchy reporters traveled to 11 countries to interview 66 freed Guantanamo and Afghanistan prison detainees. The result is a stunning 5-part series and multi-media presentation titled 'Guantanamo: Beyond the Law.'
Voter registration problems are already starting
ASK THIS | June 15, 2008
How big is the registration drive among blacks? Among young people? When applications aren’t filled out properly, do officials tell people -- or do they just put those applications aside, setting up major Election Day problems? These are stories everywhere; news organizations can be working on them now.
Soldier-scholar-war critic William E. Odom dies
COMMENTARY | June 02, 2008
An outspoken critic of the Iraq war, the retired general was one of the first to argue strongly for a full withdrawal of American troops.
Nu lede: The disappearing act reappears
COMMENTARY | April 26, 2008
The Pentagon has ceased briefing retired military leaders who went on TV to promote the government’s handling of the Iraq war. The action came five days after the New York Times exposed the program.
A 7,600-word disappearing act
ASK THIS | April 23, 2008
The New York Times ran a story on a highly questionable Pentagon program in which retired military leaders tried to manipulate public opinion in favor of the Iraq war. A story like that should have legs. So what happened to it?
A tribute to a journalism innovator, and a look at the Internet
SHOWCASE | March 27, 2008
On the occasion of the retirement of Phil Meyer, the University of North Carolina's journalism school holds a two-day symposium pondering what the Internet hath wrought.
What the future holds for investigative reporting
SHOWCASE | April 14, 2008
More than 40 practitioners, writing in Nieman Reports, get into the past, present and future of watchdog reporting as they see it—and as they are and will be doing it.
How not to conduct a presidential poll
COMMENTARY | January 02, 2008
From its bumper-sticker mentality to its gaping margin of sampling error for subgroups, the Des Moines Register's new poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers provides a great example of what not to do in an election year.
test test test
COMMENTARY | December 14, 2007
It's Nieman Watchdog's third anniversary
SHOWCASE | May 24, 2007
The most striking changes since we started have been the advance of real reporting online, and, despite some great work, the continuing decline of the traditional news media.
Odom on Iraq, Iran and what it means to be a democracy
SHOWCASE | February 20, 2007
There are few true democracies in the world, William Odom says in a radio interview. ‘If the Iraqis and other Arab countries want to become liberal systems, they can do it. They’re not going to do it the way we’re headed there now.’
Introducing our new Watchdog blog
SHOWCASE | October 09, 2006
Look one column over for the new feature we've added: a blog, written mostly by journalists, focusing on questions the press should ask, on coverage of important issues, and on the news industry.
Debunking the myth of liberal media bias
COMMENTARY | October 05, 2006
Eric Boehlert wrote about press misjudgments, foibles, stupidities, biases and kowtows one by one in columns from 2000 to 2005, and then strung them together in a book that is highly critical of many well-known, even venerated journalists.
Look for our new Watchdog Blog
SHOWCASE | October 05, 2006
We’ve added a new, important feature to this Web site: A blog in which at the outset at least 11 journalists, some of them very well known, will be writing frequently on coverage of important issues in the news, and on the news industry as well.
A 2nd look at covering the 2006 elections
DISCUSSIONS | September 02, 2006
A survey we did in June is timely right now as editors and reporters focus on the November election campaign. Here is what 28 past Nieman fellows had to say about what’s wrong with recent past coverage (too much he-said, she-said leads the list), and some suggestions for what should be done.
What about the Senate inquiry into twisted prewar intelligence?
ASK THIS | July 14, 2006
Minority leader Harry Reid shut down the U.S. Senate eight months ago to force the Intelligence Committee to investigate how Bush, Cheney et al handled the findings they got. Reporters should ask Reid and the 15 Senators on the committee: What’s taking so long?
Bush says one thing, the U.S. embassy another
COMMENTARY | June 20, 2006
A State Department cable, reprinted here, paints a miserable, fearful existence for Iraqis even as the Bush administration tries to create and ride a wave of good news. So far, the press has done next to nothing with this story.
Reporters, editors can learn from Jon Corzine
COMMENTARY | June 15, 2006
The governor of New Jersey, in a letter to the New York Times, shows one way of dealing with vulgar publicity hounds: Don’t give them what they want.
The U.S. seen as 'the big devil' but also still 'a dream of hope'
DISCUSSIONS | June 11, 2006
View from the Americas: Some Canadians and Latins express deep disappointment in America, but others feel a closeness that can overcome any U.S. government actions, no matter how unpopular.
Some Asian Nieman fellows are highly critical of the American press
DISCUSSIONS | June 12, 2006
This is the beginning of Part 2 – the international section – of a special Nieman Watchdog feature marking our second anniversary online. It focuses on views of the U.S. in Asia, as reported by ten past Nieman fellows.
Nieman fellows want a revolt against the 'he-said, she-said'
DISCUSSIONS | June 13, 2006
Part 1 of a special survey of Nieman fellows on the second anniversary of this Web site. It includes a main story on comments and suggestions by 28 American Nieman fellows on 2006 election coverage, and links to the comments of each fellow.
What's the law: Are released felons allowed to vote?
ASK THIS | March 24, 2006
In most states felons who have served their time are permitted to vote. But a survey in New York shows that one-third of local election boards either don’t know the law or don’t follow it. How about where you live?
As bird flu spreads, how prepared are we?
ASK THIS | March 19, 2006
Millions of birds have been killed and almost 100 people have died along avian flight paths in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Here are some questions reporters need to ask.
AP describes 6 years of luxurious special-interest living by Tom DeLay
SHOWCASE | December 21, 2005
Wire service writers do some old fashioned reporting – going over public records – to find 100 flights on corporate jets, stays at world-class hotels, and other examples of high life paid for by donors and PACs
The Baltimore Sun on the Plame case
SHOWCASE | August 26, 2005
'Not simply about the Karl Rove brand of politics taken too far, but about the fabrication that launched a war,' says the newspaper in an editorial.
Why Deep Throat was an unimportant source and other reflections on Watergate
COMMENTARY | July 29, 2005
Barry Sussman writes: “The reason Deep Throat remained anonymous, so that even Washington Post editors didn’t know who he was, is that his contribution was unimportant.”
The Annenberg School’s FactCheck is still going strong
SHOWCASE | July 19, 2005
One recent item raises sharp questions about Bush’s regard for the facts in his speech to the nation from Fort Bragg.
The secrecy logic: If everything is classified, we’ll be safer, right?
SHOWCASE | July 04, 2005
Says a government official in charge of security oversight: "I've seen information that was classified that I've also seen published in third-grade textbooks."
ASNE, Poynter put the spotlight on hard-edged reporting
SHOWCASE | June 24, 2005
Thirty-one publishers and chief editors, all committed to strong watchdog journalism, met to kick off a drive for better watchdog reporting, the theme for Rick Rodriguez's tenure as this year’s ASNE president. Nieman Watchdog Project Editor Barry Sussman tells what happened.
Why did Jeb Bush attack the New York Times so viciously?
COMMENTARY | June 21, 2005
What's behind his letter to the editor, saying the Times has a 'grotesque and chilling disrespect for the sanctity of life?' And how should the Times and other media organizations respond to attacks like these?
The myth of Deep Throat
COMMENTARY | June 01, 2005
Barry Sussman wrote about Deep Throat -- the bit player who became a giant -- in a 1997 essay commemorating the 25th anniversary of the break-in.
Water as news; stories on war and terror
SHOWCASE | April 20, 2005
The magazine of the Nieman Foundation has two Spring 2005 issues — one in print, the other online. As usual, the offerings are highly informative, must-reads for editors and reporters
'The Vanishing Newspaper' and other takes on news and the news business
SHOWCASE | April 12, 2005
The current issue of Nieman Reports (Spring 2005) includes in-depth reviews of recent books by Phil Meyer, Bonnie M. Anderson, Robert McChesney and John Nichols, Dan Gillmor, Seymour Hersh, Geoffrey R. Stone, Seth Mnookin, Mark Bowden, and Sebastiao Salgado.
Getting the Schiavo backstory on the record
ASK THIS | March 25, 2005
When a story becomes as powerful and emblematic as the Terri Schiavo case has, the basics should be common knowledge. But some essential elements have been glossed over, or only reported here and there.
What do leading Republicans have to say about the executive branch's fake news videos?
ASK THIS | March 16, 2005
If Bush's allies are critical, then the propaganda charge can't be written off as mere partisan bickering.
Understanding religious fervor is a key to reporting politics
ASK THIS | March 08, 2005
Bill Moyers writes in a New York Review essay on political religion: 'The delusional…has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power.'
Anything you'd like to ask Rupert Murdoch?
ASK THIS | March 01, 2005
The controversial mogul will be a keynote speaker at the 2005 ASNE convention in Washington. We'd like to help out a little by offering editors your suggestions for the Q&A session.
Bush’s second inaugural address: an idealistic policy or a diversion?
ASK THIS | January 25, 2005
Is America embarking on a worldwide anti-tyranny movement, as Bush said, or isn't it? Either way, the press needs to follow up on the president’s lofty rhetoric.
Berkeley sociologists say odds are 999 to 1 that electronic machines gave Bush far too many votes in Florida.
ASK THIS | November 19, 2004
By itself, switching these votes still wouldn't make Kerry the winner. But it's two presidential elections in a row that appear to have been messed up in Florida. Can the press help avoid a trifecta?
Some good reporting now could bring integrity to voting and help make it more tamper-proof
ASK THIS | November 10, 2004
Follow the lead of Keith Olbermann and The New York Times editorial page. Go over this year's vote count, and consider making election systems a beat to help bring about reform for next time.
Fundamentalists 51, enlightenment 48
ASK THIS | November 04, 2004
Maybe the election wasn't about terrorism, Iraq or the economy at all…at least not for many of those on the winning side.
Frontline and The Washington Post present 'Rumsfeld's War'
SHOWCASE | October 28, 2004
An outstanding report that breaks through the wall of secrecy in the Bush administration.
Washington Post poll reports sharp, sudden trend toward Kerry. Or does it?
ASK THIS | October 25, 2004
Tracking poll finds a 7- to 9-point swing in four days.
Is it time to re-institute the military draft?
ASK THIS | April 24, 2004
In Iraq, tours of duty are being extended for many. With no end in sight, is that enough or is conscription called for?
10 tough questions for Thursday's debate
ASK THIS | September 24, 2003
The first batch of winners in NiemanWatchdog.org's debate-question contest.
Questions for Bush and Kerry keep coming in (mostly for Bush)
ASK THIS | January 01, 1900
"Why are death penalty juries okay but civil case juries flawed?"
Get ready for another contested election
ASK THIS | October 14, 2004
What if the presidential election and some Senate races aren't settled on election night? What's in place now to deal with that?
As registration deadlines hit, what's the count for Republicans and Democrats?
ASK THIS | October 05, 2004
News organizations are finding enormous increases in voter registration — but it's the party breakdowns that will be the big story.
Presidential debates and the media effect
COMMENTARY | September 28, 2004
What the candidates say and how they appear are important, but perhaps not nearly as important as what the news media do afterward
The Times finds sharp increases in Democratic registration in Ohio and Florida
ASK THIS | September 26, 2004
Sharp spikes are found in these battleground states. What's going on in your area?
Opinion polls show wildly conflicting horserace figures. Why?
ASK THIS | September 19, 2004
Sometimes too many Republicans (or Democrats, perhaps) are included in the sample. The explanation can be that simple.
Making a mess, as seen by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
COMMENTARY | September 16, 2004
The liberal historian lays into the news media, calling them 'supine'. Does anybody think he's wrong?
Bush says he opposes 'legacy admissions;' how about asking once more, just to make sure?
ASK THIS | August 07, 2004
Persistent, tactful questioning gets the president to express a position. But does he mean it?
Record turnout — more than 100% — looms as a possibility for the Afghan election in October
ASK THIS | August 30, 2004
You say that doesn't add up? Can't have more than 100% without the election being rigged? Somebody tell Bush, who's boasting about high voter registration.
If we have to cover the Swift-boat controversy, let's at least get it right
ASK THIS | August 25, 2004
You say there are other, more important campaign issues? Oh.
Let's take a harder look at the allied coalition in Iraq
ASK THIS | August 07, 2004
Presidential candidates like to say the election is about the future but when there's an incumbent, as in 2004, the single most important issue is more likely to be the incumbent's record.
A matter of stenography at The New York Times
COMMENTARY | August 01, 2004
After the election will The Times have to apologize for some of the reporting it's doing now?
What's the progress with 'leave no child behind?'
ASK THIS | May 05, 2004
Is it a great idea or a sham and how is it working in your area?
How The Toledo Blade came to win a Pulitzer for a story that was 37 years old
SHOWCASE | May 08, 2004
Q&A with executive editor Ron Royhab on atrocities in Vietnam that the Army had kept hidden...
Why Watchdog? And why questions?
COMMENTARY | May 11, 2004
This Web site connects reporters and editors with experts, at Harvard and elsewhere, who can help frame probing, penetrating questions in various fields, and then serve as sources. We encourage your participation and feedback...
Jobs, outsourcing take center stage
ASK THIS | April 05, 2004
It's no satisfaction for American workers to hear that it's in everyone's best interests for jobs to go overseas. What's needed is a fix of some sort – and reporting that puts into perspective the problems for those who have lost their jobs.
Reporting on political public opinion polls, and should your newsroom undertake polls of its own?
ASK THIS | March 24, 2004
Q. The smaller the sample, the less useful the poll. Is the sample large enough?
Update: Tuition at public universities rises another 10.5 percent
ASK THIS | October 19, 2004
2004 increase is second highest ever; highest was last year.
The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.