One of the greats in journalism, Ben Bradlee, died Tuesday in his home in Washington at 93. For more than two decades, the Boston-born Bradlee led the Washington Post, during some of the most tumultuous times in modern American politics.
Under his leadership, the Post defied the Nixon administration and published stories on the Pentagon Papers. And two of his reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, broke the Watergate story that brought down President Richard Nixon.
Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He tweets @alexjonesmedia.
- "He took over an also-ran newspaper and turned it into a battleship like the one on which he served in World War II. Once the newspaper he ran gained steam, there was only the relentless effort to beat the competition, to find and woo talent, to afflict those that The Post deemed worthy. In the more than quarter-century he helped lead the newsroom, from 1965 to 1991, he doubled its staff and circulation, and multiplied its ambitions. He would have been a terrible newspaperman in the current context — buyouts, reduced print schedules, timidity about offending advertisers — but he was a perfect one for his time."
- "Mr. Bradlee's most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post's publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to court to try to quash those stories, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the New York Times and The Post to publish them."
- "During his reign, from 1968 to 1991, as the executive editor of the Washington Post, Bradlee took time periodically to dictate correspondence into a recorder. His letters in no way resembled those of Emily Dickinson. He was given neither to self-doubt nor to self-restraint. In his era, there may have been demands by isolated readers for greater transparency, for correction or explanation, but there was no Internet, no Twitter, to amplify them. Bradlee was, by today's standards, unchallengeable, and he was expert in the art of florid dismissal."
This segment aired on October 22, 2014.