Most Americans will remember Robert Novak as the acerbic right-winger on CNN, but he saw himself first and foremost as "a shoe-leather reporter," writes Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz. Novak prided himself on getting scoops and uncovering secrets via a wide network of Republican officials. But that insiderism proved his downfall when, in 2003, he relied on Karl Rove and revealed that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative.
Novak faced stinging criticism for "carrying water for the Bush White House," but in fact the conservative columnist had some serious differences with the Republican Party—not least over the war in Iraq, which he called "a huge mistake" days before the invasion. Whatever his failings in the Plame affair, he was the last of a generation of political columnists who did their own reporting, breaking news rather than reacting to it.