Ben Bradlee’s Legacy

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Ben Bradlee’s Legacy

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The late executive editor of The Washington Post Ben Bradlee

John Fey, Centurion Staff

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Benjamin C. Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post and renowned for overseeing the coverage of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, died at the age of 93 on Oct. 21.

On Oct. 29, a large memorial service for Bradlee was held at the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. Those in attendance included co-workers, politicians, friends, and family who wished to pay their last respects to a man they held in the highest esteem.

Bradlee, who served as the Post’s executive editor from 1968 to 1991, handled many popular and important stories, but none can be seen as more important as the Post’s investigation of the Watergate scandal. Bradlee oversaw Post writers Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who were the first to investigate the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in D.C.

“There have been memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, endless interviews, books, including ours, documentaries, movies about Ben’s leadership at the Post. What is the central part of his character, the part of him that was different? It’s this he was not afraid,” Bernstein said at Bradlee’s memorial service.

“He pulled off being Bradlee because he wasn’t afraid,” Bernstein continued, “of presidents, of polio, of political correctness, of publishing the Pentagon Papers . . . of making mistakes.”

With Bradlee’s backing, Woodward and Bernstein investigated further. While closely following the trial of the Watergate burglars, they learned some of Nixon’s campaign funds were deposited into the bank account of one of the burglars, linking Nixon’s administration to the break-in for the first time.

They also gained a confidential source, a high-ranking official at the FBI, Mark Felt, who was known only as “Deep Throat” during the investigation. Felt was instrumental to Woodward’s and Bernstein’s investigation, as he had access to FBI reports on the burglary investigation. Felt guided their investigation by telling them what leads to pursue and could confirm or deny what other sources were telling The Post reporters.

The Post’s initial findings led to the creation of the Senate Watergate Committee, a seven-member investigatory committee. The Committee’s investigation found Nixon knew of the five burglars arrested at the Hotel, and Nixon had been illegally tape recording conversations at the White House and using wire tapes to blackmail people opposing him.

The Post’s initial investigation led to Nixon resigning as president on Aug. 9, 1974 to avoid impeachment.

Most people involved in news reporting consider this one of journalism’s greatest victories; a newspaper, with stories being looked over by three people, exposed government corruption and ran a President out of office when he couldn’t cover his tracks any longer.

Bradlee was characterized as a great leader during his memorial service for his courage in the face of opposition but also for his kindness and his ability to inspire those around him.

Bradlee’s contribution to the world of journalism will be remembered for his courage to fight for the truth.

“In almost every discussion or encounter with Ben, no matter how fleeting, he made you feel better about yourself,” Woodward said. “He made you want to be better.”



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