By Lena Williams, Guild-CWA :: For a brief, shining moment 42 years ago, I was lucky enough to enter Ben Bradlee’s orbit. And it launched my career in journalism.
I was being interviewed for an internship in the Washington Post sports department when Bradlee happened by. The sports editor introduced me to the dashing executive editor as a summer intern applicant. Bradlee extended his hand and said: “We could use a woman like you.” He winked at me and shook my hand. When he left the editor said, “I guess you’re hired.”
After that, when I’d see Bradlee in the halls or newsroom, he always gave me a hearty “hello.” Even as a passing acquaintance, he was every bit as charming and charismatic as all the coverage since his death Tuesday has described.
The “Right to Work” blog has collected links to some of the best and most interesting coverage of a man known and respected as much for his principles, integrity and grit as for that famous charm:
Ben Bradlee’s Charmed, Charming Life Why was Ben Bradlee unique among journalists? While “the newspaper business can be a grand endeavor,” The New York Times’ David Carr writes, “most of the people who commit journalism would never be mistaken for larger than life. Journalists are bystanders who chronicle the exploits of people who actually do things. But Ben Bradlee did things. He went to war, loved early and often, befriended and took on presidents, swore like a sailor, and partied like a movie star.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/23/business/media/ben-bradlees-charmed- charming-life.html?smid=fb-share
‘The Most Charismatic & Consequential Newspaper Editor of Postwar America’ Ben Bradlee was a “catalogue of swaggering anecdotes” that “combined the Brahmin and the profane,” writes the New Yorker’s David Remnick. Like this one: Bradlee took time periodically to dictate correspondence into a recorder. His letters in no way resembled those of Emily Dickinson… His secretary, Debbie Regan, was careful to reflect precisely his language when transcribing his dictation. One day, Regan approached the house grammarian, an editor named Tom Lippman, and admitted that she was perplexed. “Look, I have to ask you something,” she said. “Is ‘dickhead’ one word or two?” http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/postscript-benjamin-c-bradlee
How Ben Bradlee’s Outrageous Use of White Privilege Changed My Life As a young African-American woman, Rachel Jones submitted an essay to Newsweek about “Black English,” prompting Ben Bradlee to send her a letter asking her to apply for a Washington Post internship. She ended up taking an unsatisfying internship at The New York Times. One day, back home in Cairo, Ill., the phone rang. “When I answered, the voice on the other end growled, “So, you tried the New York Times. Now you need to come work for us next year.” “What was this guy’s DEAL??? I mean, didn’t Bradlee have enough to worry about at the Washington Post without chasing down a black female two-time college dropout who wasn’t really sure she wanted to be a journalist in the first place??? But Ben Bradlee wanted me to come to the Washington Post because he was a powerful, privileged white male SUPER HERO of American journalism and he could do whatever he damn well wanted to do. And he was asking me to accept an internship at the Washington Post. AGAIN.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141022104403-11263543-how-ben-bradlee-s-outrageous-use-of-white-privilege-changed-my-life?_mSplash=1
Ben Bradlee Probably Would Have Spiked Some of His Obituaries Philly.com’s Will Bunch suggests the outpouring of grief for Bradlee, while sincere, masks grief for another loss: newspapers themselves. “The tales of Bradlee’s glory days in the Washington Post newsroom are tales of a charismatic man, but they’re also stories about a lost era of unlimited expense accounts, when little mattered in the news cycle beyond tomorrow’s Page 1, and when editors interviewed up-and-coming young reporters instead of firing frightened old ones.” Still, he thinks much of the coverage wasn’t up to Bradlee standards, “showing off some of the worst habits of 21st Century writing… lazy, hitting simplistic, pre-determined narratives in ways that were sloppy at best and inaccurate at worst.” http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Ben-Bradlee-probably-would-have-spiked-some-of-his-obituaries.html
The Powerful Knew Better Than to Threaten Ben Bradlee Columnist Richard Cohen writes that “powerful people would call and complain about this or that article and Bradlee, with a lethal insouciance, would essentially say that the facts were the facts. I can’t say he never killed a story (nothing important, that I know of), but the most chilling boasts of the powerful — ‘I can get that story killed’ or ‘I know Ben Bradlee’ — were never heard in Washington. If they really knew Bradlee, they knew their demands would be counterproductive. Threaten and the story would surely run. Hemingway, another newsman, popularized the phrase ‘grace under pressure.’ It applied to Bradlee. It was another way of saying guts.” http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/2014/10/22/ben-bradlee-leader-friend/17722201/
Media Myth, Adulation Figure in Media Tributes to Ben Bradlee In his “Media Myth Alert” blog, W. Joseph Campbell says even Bradlee “rejected the simplistic and mythical notion that the Post’s Watergate reporting brought down Nixon’s corrupt presidency, saying in 1997 that ‘it must be remembered that Nixon got Nixon. The Post didn’t get Nixon.’” But that didn’t stop the claim from being endlessly repeated in coverage Wednesday. http://mediamythalert.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/media-myth-adulation-figure-in-media-tributes-to-ben-bradlee/