Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post during its groundbreaking Watergate reporting that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, died on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at his home in Washington, D.C., according to The Washington Post. Bradlee was 93.
Bradlee has been described as the “last lion-king of newspaper editors,” by Phil Bornstein, a former San Francisco Chronicle editor.
The Washington Post stressed that Bradlee sought to bring the paper beyond the expectations of a typical metropolitian news outlet.
“He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines,” and obituary in The Washington Post said. “His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”
Arguably the most influential story of Bradlee’s career was The Washington Post’s coverage of Watergate, which eventually caused the only resignation of a U.S. president in the country’s history.
Accoring to The New York Times, The Washington Post “uncovered a political scandal involving secret funds, espionage, sabotage, dirty tricks and illegal wiretapping. Along the way, they withstood repeated denials by the White House, threats from the attorney general and the uncomfortable feeling of being alone on the story of the century.”
Bradlee handpicked his reporters and editors, often telling them to “just get it right.” With rare exception, they did just that.
Bradlee worked closely with The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham. The two decided to publish excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, which contained an untold side of the Vietnam War, according to The Washington Post.
The newspaper then faced a Supreme Court battle with the government and eventually won the right to publish the papers.
During both the Pentagon Papers and Watergate scandals, Graham stood behind Bradlee’s decisions to publish even if it was not always in her best interest.
President Obama released a statement Tuesday night, published by The Washington Post, saying, “For Benjamin Bradlee, journalism was more than a profession — it was a public good vital to our democracy.
“A true newspaperman, he transformed The Washington Post into one of the country’s finest newspapers, and 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,” Obama’s statement continued. “The standard he set — a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting — encouraged so many others to enter the profession.”
The circulation of the Washington Post nearly doubled during Bradlee’s tenure.
He helped the newspaper earn 17 Pulitzer Prizes, including the Public Service Award for its reporting on Watergate.
While Bradlee sought to encourage his reporters, he also had to deal with scandal. Bradlee was forced to return a Pulitzer prize after a fake story by a young reporter, Janet Cooke, was discovered.
Bradlee also ordered a landmark investigation of the incident by The Washington Post.
Bradlee was a graduate of Harvard University, and also served in the Navy. He was also the author of two best-selling books, “Conversations with Kennedy” and “A Good Life.”
Bradlee is survived by his wife, Sally Quinn, four children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Editor’s Note: Information from NBC, the Washington Post and The New York Times was used in this report.