Ben Bradlee dies at 93

It is fair to say that Benjamin Bradlee, who died yesterday at the age of 93, did more to shape American newspaper journalism over the last fifty years than anyone else. If that sounds like a left-handed compliment, it is.

His accomplishments are great.   No other American editor ever brought down a sitting president, a trophy that has inspired two subsequent generations of journalists who chose their career to “make a difference.” And he is credited with expanding the coverage of the Washington Post beyond capital-centric hard news to include lucrative (at the time) suburban events (and advertisers). He was the ultimate newspaper editor of the pre-internet era of monopoly metropolitan daily newspapers with monopoly profits, run by liberals and pushing liberal politics while posturing as servants of the public good, acting out of a sense of “public trust.”

Though I never met him, I suspect Bradlee was a good man of considerable integrity. Certainly, he was portrayed that way by Jason Robards in the hit movie All the President’s Men, which more than anything else crated a gold plated image of Bradlee as a brave, crusading, editor backing a risky venture by two young plucky reporters. Has any newspaperman ever had better PR?

Bradlee player an insider’s game ion DC. He became a good friend of young Senator John F. Kennedy, perhaps aided by the fact that Bradlee was born of a wealthy, elite Boston Brahmin family (that lost its fortune in the depression, though). The two men were neighbors in Georgetown and became friends, a relationship that continued when JFK was in the White House. Howard Kurtz, who worked for Bradlee at the Post noted:

He was, by today’s standards, way too close to Jack Kennedy, his onetime Georgetown neighbor, who fed him scoops from the White House. Bradlee told me and others he didn’t know of the extramarital activities that would be revealed after JFK’s death, though these were the subject of widespread gossip. And there were bumps in the relationship; Kennedy cut him off occasionally when he wrote something in Newsweek that ticked off the president.

As with so many of those who were inspired by Watergate to enter journalism, scandal-mongering is something that should be aimed at Republicans only. This is my biggest beef with Bradlee, and it is another part of his legacy, one which has led to a media environment that is dishonestly partisan and self-righteous to boot,

Still, all in all, Bradlee deserves respect an admiration as he passes on to his ultimate reward.

It is fair to say that Benjamin Bradlee, who died yesterday at the age of 93, did more to shape American newspaper journalism over the last fifty years than anyone else. If that sounds like a left-handed compliment, it is.

His accomplishments are great.   No other American editor ever brought down a sitting president, a trophy that has inspired two subsequent generations of journalists who chose their career to “make a difference.” And he is credited with expanding the coverage of the Washington Post beyond capital-centric hard news to include lucrative (at the time) suburban events (and advertisers). He was the ultimate newspaper editor of the pre-internet era of monopoly metropolitan daily newspapers with monopoly profits, run by liberals and pushing liberal politics while posturing as servants of the public good, acting out of a sense of “public trust.”

Though I never met him, I suspect Bradlee was a good man of considerable integrity. Certainly, he was portrayed that way by Jason Robards in the hit movie All the President’s Men, which more than anything else crated a gold plated image of Bradlee as a brave, crusading, editor backing a risky venture by two young plucky reporters. Has any newspaperman ever had better PR?

Bradlee player an insider’s game ion DC. He became a good friend of young Senator John F. Kennedy, perhaps aided by the fact that Bradlee was born of a wealthy, elite Boston Brahmin family (that lost its fortune in the depression, though). The two men were neighbors in Georgetown and became friends, a relationship that continued when JFK was in the White House. Howard Kurtz, who worked for Bradlee at the Post noted:

He was, by today’s standards, way too close to Jack Kennedy, his onetime Georgetown neighbor, who fed him scoops from the White House. Bradlee told me and others he didn’t know of the extramarital activities that would be revealed after JFK’s death, though these were the subject of widespread gossip. And there were bumps in the relationship; Kennedy cut him off occasionally when he wrote something in Newsweek that ticked off the president.

As with so many of those who were inspired by Watergate to enter journalism, scandal-mongering is something that should be aimed at Republicans only. This is my biggest beef with Bradlee, and it is another part of his legacy, one which has led to a media environment that is dishonestly partisan and self-righteous to boot,

Still, all in all, Bradlee deserves respect an admiration as he passes on to his ultimate reward.