Benjamin Bradlee, who edited The Washington Post for 26 years and guided its coverage of the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers, has died aged 93 at his home in Washington.
Mr Bradlee took the helm of the newspaper as executive editor in 1968 after a distinguished career at Newsweek, which he joined in 1953. In 1961, while Mr Bradlee was at the magazine, it was purchased by the Post company, and not long after he was hired by Post owner Katharine Graham as managing editor of the newspaper.
The Washington Post published an 8000 word obituary to Mr Bradlee yesterday, within which former Post owner Donald E. Graham said: “Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor.”
“So much of The Post is Ben … he created it as we know it today.”
In a statement after the announcement of Mr Bradlee’s death, President Barack Obama spoke of him as a “true newspaperman”, who saw journalism as not just a profession, but a public good that was vital to democracy.
“With him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told – stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better,” he said.
“The standard he set – a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting – encouraged so many others to enter the profession.”
During his time at the Post circulation and newsroom staff almost doubled and the paper was awarded 17 Pulitzer Prizes, but perhaps Mr Bradlee’s most noted achievement was leading his paper’s fierce reporting on the break-in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in 1972. The break-in became known as the Watergate scandal and led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.
The reporting of Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered a story of illegal wiretapping and sabotage. Despite denials from the White House and threats from the attorney general, the reporters kept at the story with the support of Mr Bradlee, and ultimately uncovered a scandal that led to the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.
Mr Woodward and Mr Bernstein released a joint statement after Mr Bradlee’s death, saying that the former Post editor was “true friend and genius leader in journalism”.
“He forever altered our business. His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit. 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. We loved him deeply, and he will never be forgotten or replaced in our lives.”
The current executive editor of the Post, Martin Baron, said that Mr Bradlee made an indelible mark on history and on the journalism profession.
“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,” he said.
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