Ben Bradlee, Washington Post editor, dies at 93

Ben Bradlee, Barack Obama, Presidential Medal of Freedom, journalism, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

The American journalist and newspaper editor, Ben Bradlee, known for editing the Washington Post, died on 21 October.

Bradlee was editor of the Post from 1965 to 1991, and was notable for overseeing the Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, which broke in 1972 and led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.

Bradlee also oversaw the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a classified history of American military involvement during the Vietnam War, which were also published in The New York Times.

The publication of the Pentagon papers saw the Nixon administration appeal to the US Supreme Court to have the stories suppressed. The Court ruled in favour of the Post and the Times in 1971, saying the move was against laws in the country’s Constitution.

‘Quest for the truth’

 In a statement, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Post reporters who broke the story regarding Watergate and who were advised by Bradlee to pursue the story, said Bradlee was a leader in journalism in the United States. Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book on the coverage of Watergate, called “All the President’s Men,” which was adapted into a film released in 1976 starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

“His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit,” Woodward and Bernstein said. “He had the courage of an army. Ben had an intuitive understanding of the history of our profession, its formative impact on him and all of us. But he was utterly liberated from that. He was an original who charted his own course.”

Martin Baron, the Post’s current Executive Editor, said the Post remained guided by the principles and standards Bradlee established.

“Ben Bradlee has made an indelible mark on history and on our profession,” Baron said in a statement. “His spirit has been an inspiration to generations of journalists, demonstrating what our profession can achieve when it is led with courage and an unwavering commitment to truth.”

Tributes were also paid in the UK. Bradlee also worked with several British journalists under the Leonard Stern fellowship, established in 1979, which has a young British journalist go to work for the Post as an intern during the summer.

A journalism icon

Some tributes came from journalists and journalism graduates via the social network site Twitter.







For his work in journalism, Bradlee was named fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists, a journalism advocacy organisation based in the US in 1973, and was also a lifetime member. In a statement, Dana Neuts, the president of the SPJ, said Bradlee was an icon.

“Ben was the epitome of what a journalist should be,” Neuts said. “He ranks as one of the greatest American newspaper editors of our time, and will be missed by many friends, colleagues and the journalism profession as a whole.”

President Barack Obama awarded Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, and in a statement, said Bradlee “told stories that needed to be told – stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better.”

“The standard he set – a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting – encouraged so many others to enter the profession,” Obama said.

Bradlee died of natural causes in Washington, and was 93.

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