A Good Life by Ben Bradlee
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee is without question one of the great American newspapermen of the century; the word Watergate alone would serve to place him in that not always admirable pantheon. But then there are three words more: the Washington Post. With the active support of the Graham family, whose property the paper is, the Post as we know it is essentially Bradlee’s creation—an immense achievement, and one which flies in the face of the critic A.J. Liebling’s observation that freedom of the press in America consists mainly of the right to own one.
During Bradlee’s tenure as executive editor, which ran from 1968 to 1991, the Post, hitherto a sedate, provincial daily, became what he tells us he had always intended it to be, the only newspaper to be mentioned in the same breath as the New York Times (the center of another vast, family-controlled media empire). Under Bradlee, the Post redefined investigative reporting, feature reporting, gossip; most of all, it may have redefined the role of modern journalism. Along with the Times, the Post became a crusading liberal newspaper—the one Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew loved to hate, until they themselves were no more—and, even more than the Times, the force that politicians and bureaucrats had to face over their morning coffee. As Post columnist Meg Greenfield said at Bradlee’s retirement, “Ben made the Post dangerous to people in government.”
About the Author
George Russell is the executive editor of Fox New Channel.