Likewise for funereal news this morning, was the death announced last night of Ben Bradlee, the 93-year-old former editor of the Washington Post, after quick-declining health. He was placed in Hospice care at the end of September.
Bradlee, shown above at left, was the JFK of journalism. He’s with Bob Woodward at the premiere of “All The President’s Men” in 1976 — at the very-height of the last real age for the fabled fourth estate, especially of print news gathering. (Photo found here).
The Kennedy analogy is also real — via Vanity Fair last night:
His pedigree was Brahmin and his blood was blue.
His maternal great-uncle, Frank Crowninshield, was the founding editor of Vanity Fair.
He spoke grammatically perfect French with an unyielding Boston accent.
He survived four years of naval service on destroyers in the Pacific during World War II and made a splash as Newsweek’s man in Paris in the golden days of the postwar 1950s.
But his greatest break came through a willful bit of luck, when he found himself the Georgetown neighbor of his fellow Harvard graduate, Senator John F. Kennedy, when they and the world were both still young.
Despite the upper-crust origins, Bradlee’s true form was fashioned for the news room. When I started newspaper work in mid-1970s Montgomery, Ala., the Washington Post was the center of the journalism world — and even that faraway newsroom way-affected/effected my much-smaller version.
Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, nailed the Bradlee eulogy for what it was in them days:
Ben had total joie de journalism.
It oozed from every pore.
No one had more fun chasing a big story and no editor made the chase more fun.
He wrote his first newspaper story at age 15 as a copy boy for the Beverly Evening Times in Massachusetts.
But the reporter was a born editor and during his tenure at the Post the paper won 23 Pulitzers, doubled its staff and nearly doubled its circulation.
The Bradlee period was truly a golden time.
The news biz, though, ain’t what she used to be — as this about Bradlee’s insight from the V.F. piece above:
When I left The New York Times for V.F. after 23 years, I met him at a Washington Christmas party and confessed that I didn’t think daily journalism was much fun anymore.
“It hasn’t been fun for a long time, pal,” he said.
Yet for awhile…