A couple of weeks ago, veteran journalist Bob Woodward picked up the phone and dialed Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com Inc. and owner of The Washington Post, where Woodward has worked since the 1970s.
"We talked about the future of news and how somebody's got to figure out how to make a product that people from the left and the center and the right will trust," Woodward told outgoing NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart on Wednesday, explaining that he has known Bezos for more than 20 years.
"How somebody puts that Humpty Dumpty back together again is a giant mission," Woodward said in a live video beamed to attendees of the virtual NADA Show. "It's going to be a lifetime job, and the future of news hangs in the balance."
Drawing on his 50 years in journalism, Woodward said while there is no question former President Donald Trump contributed to Americans' distrust of the media, everyone has a role to play in restoring trust — not just in the media, but in the country's future.
He said tech giants such as Facebook "have a responsibility" to try to make the information on their sites as accurate and fair as possible.
On whether the Republican Party will be the party of the former president going forward, Woodward said it's hard to tell but undeniable that "74 million people voted for Trump."
"Whether you like him or don't like him, it wasn't an incidental vote," he said. "You had to be pretty much a believer or convinced that the other alternative, Biden, was totally unacceptable."
The fissures left in American society in the wake of Trump's presidency are an enormous challenge facing President Joe Biden as he begins his term, Woodward said.
He cautioned against a rush to judgment on the new government, saying the verdict on Biden isn't in yet and will be determined on an issue-by-issue basis.
Woodward covered Vice President Biden in the Obama administration and said, as the chief negotiator on economic issues, Biden "had a mixed record."
"They really did not raise taxes as Obama wanted to do, and they did not really cut spending as the Republicans wanted to do, so it was kind of a stalemate."