Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post editor

Wash Post obit: Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post editor
Benjamin C. Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years and guided The Post’s transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers, died Oct. 21 at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 93.

Mr. Bradlee loved the Watergate story, not least because it gave the newspaper “impact,” his favorite word in his first years as editor. He wanted the paper to be noticed. In his personal vernacular — a vivid, blasphemous argot that combined the swearwords he mastered in the Navy during World War II with the impeccable enunciation of a blue-blooded Bostonian — a great story was “a real tube-ripper.” This meant a story was so hot that Post readers would rip the paper out of the tubes into which the paperboy delivered it. A bad story was “mego” — the acronym for “my eyes glaze over” — applied to anything that bored him. Maximizing the number of tube-rippers and minimizing mego was the Bradlee strategy.

Although he graduated from St. Mark’s School and Harvard University, the Navy left as much of a mark on Mr. Bradlee as did his early life among Boston’s WASP aristocracy. The Navy taught him to swear, as well as to respect talent wherever it appeared.

NY Times obit: Ben Bradlee, Editor Who Directed Watergate Coverage

Ben Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post’s Watergate reporting that led to the fall of President Richard M. Nixon and that stamped him in American culture as the quintessential newspaper editor of his era — gruff, charming and tenacious — died on Tuesday. He was 93.

When the trail of crimes and shenanigans led directly to the White House, Nixon was forced to resign in August 1974. The tapes that he himself had made of conversations in the Oval Office confirmed what The Post had been reporting. Mrs. Graham wrote to Mr. Bradlee in her Christmas letter that year, “We were only saved from extinction by someone mad enough not only to tape himself but to tape himself talking about how to conceal it.”

In their book, describing meetings in Mr. Bradlee’s office, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein recalled how Mr. Bradlee would pick up an undersize sponge-rubber basketball and toss it at a small hoop attached to a window. “The gesture was indicative both of the editor’s short attention span and of a studied informality,” they wrote. “There was an alluring combination of aristocrat and commoner about Bradlee.”

They observed that double-edged manner in Washington society, sometimes seeing it displayed in one swoop, as when Mr. Bradlee would “grind his cigarettes out in a demitasse cup during a formal dinner party.” “Bradlee,” they added, “was one of the few persons who could pull that kind of thing off and leave the hostess saying how charming he was.”


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