Seven years shy of his 100th birthday, Ben Bradlee died Tuesday.
And if you’re like me, who walked into a newspaper newsroom for the first time and knew he never wanted to work anywhere else, you felt sad that one of the lions of 20th century journalism is gone.
I can’t think of any newspaper writer who packed more amazing moments, accomplishments and had a bigger footprint on the world he inhabited than Bradlee. It’d be easier to list the things he didn’t do than those he did: Reporter at the Washington Post, Navy man in World War II, foreign correspondent, Newsweek bureau chief, philanthropist, fighter for just causes, best pal of John F. Kennedy, and his most important job, editor of the Washington Post for 26 years.
He is, of course, most famous for shepherding two young reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein through their world-changing Watergate break-in stories, leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. He was played memorably by Jason Robards (above) in the movie “All the President’s Men ” (a classic I’m sure I’ll be watching again over the next few days), but equally as important he made the gutsy, ballsy decision to publish the secret Pentagon Papers, detailing America’s blunders in Vietnam.
He was a First Amendment champion, a zealous fighter for his reporters in the newsroom, and a man who understood just how important a newspaper could be in speaking truth to power. (Vanity Fair put together a list of 20 great Bradlee quotes, it’s highly entertaining).
Was he arrogant, brash and stubborn as hell? Sure. But show me one great newspaperman who isn’t.
I’ve been lucky enough in my journalism career to meet a few people who’d worked at the Post when Bradlee ran the place, and one thing they all said was his most amazing trait was his enthusiasm for a great story. No matter what it was about, if it was well-reported and stylishly written, he loved it and couldn’t wait to get it in the paper.
In 1973, in the middle of the Watergate investigation, he wrote “As long as a journalist tells the truth, in conscience and fairness, it is not his job to worry about consequences. The truth is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run. I truly believe the truth sets men free.”
Ben Bradlee printed a hell of a lot of truth in his remarkable life. His are footprints that will never, ever be erased or forgotten.
**Next up, the brilliant John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” is at it again: He had a hilarious segment Sunday night about the problem of the Supreme Court not allowing arguments to be videotaped and shown on TV, thus leaving us with only boring audio from some seriously important cases.
However, Oliver has a solution, and it involves animals, and it made me spit out my glass of water I was drinking when I watched it. I would SO watch something like this if it really happened:
**Finally today, the great Kansas City Royals postseason winning streak crashed to a halt in Game 1 of the World Series, but hey, it’s just one game. The best story to come out of Game 1 had nothing to do with the game itself, though.
Monday afternoon the wife of Royals pitcher Wade Davis was eating at a local K.C. restaurant and apparently liked her service a lot. Liked it so much, in fact, that as a tip, she left waiter Ryan O’Connor a ticket to Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night.
Very, very cool. Too bad the Royals lost