“A Good Life”

The Post movie prompted me to read “A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures” by Ben Bradlee (August 26, 1921 – October 21, 2014) Executive Editor of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1911.

The Post

In his book, Bradlee wrote about his friendship with JFK, the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate; stories didn’t stop there.  Stories went on — fighting the union, and the reporting on CIA Paid Millions to Jordan’s King Hussein (1976), facing Jane Cook case, and National Security and privacy.

But he said, “…no matter how many other great stories were coming, we weren’t going to do better than Watergate.”

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post offices at the height of the Watergate investigation, April 29, 1973. Bettmann/CORBIS)

Coincidentally, the day when Robert Mueller charges over a dozen Russian nationals with interfering in 2016 election was announced on Feb. 17th, I just finished reading the following paragraph of the ebook (on p. 400):

“Now was the time to pour it on, turn up the volume. Take a look at everything government was doing. …

But journalism was forever changed…. that after Watergate government officials generally and instinctively lied when confronted by embarrassing events.”

Bradlee also stressed much about journalism and its integrity:

“The best of the American press is an extraordinary daily example of industry, honesty, conscience, and courage, driven by a desire to inform and interest reader.”

None the less, the case of Jane Cooke was a different one. When Jane Cooke (was the Washington Post reporter) won the Pulitzer Prize on April 13, 1981, the story and  Bradlee’s world with it– began to fall apart. He admittedly said that he had learned a vitally important lesson:

“The truth is the best defense, and the whole truth is the very best defense.”

At the end of the book, he expressed, “But, journalists thrive on not knowing exactly what the future holds. That’s part of the excitement. Something interesting, something important, will happen somewhere as sure as God made sour apples, and a good aggressive newspaper will become part of that something.”

 

Bradlee retired at 70, he did miss the excitement of stories that quicken his pulse. As he said, “That’s when a newspaperman can get on with the job he was born to do. Not many of us were lucky enough to get that exhilarating opportunity. Again and again and again.” Yet, he realized “highlights are only highlights, and these highlights are behind me. They are not a life.”

In his early career, he believed “I was sure I wanted to do something that would make the world a better place, that would really make a difference.” He did.

Bradlee won eighteen Pulitzer Prizes. He redefined the way news is reported, published, and read. “His leadership and investigative drive during the Watergate scandal led to the downfall of a president, and his challenge to the government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers changed the course of American history.”   — The New York Times Book Review

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Bradlee was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on August 8, 2013, and was presented the medal at a White House ceremony on November 20, 2013.

November 20, 2013: President Barack Obama shakes hands after awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ben Bradlee in the East Room of the White House. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Photo sources: NYTimes, Washing Post, ABC News, and achievement.org

Bradlee died on Oct. 14, 2014, at the age of 93, he had spent his final years grappling with dementia.  Here is the story of his final years.

Quinn at her husband’s funeral at National Cathedral, Oct. 29, 2014. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post.

“He had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, he had kept the faith.” –Sally Quinn

Note: “The Post” is nominated for Best Picture for Oscars 2018.

Thank you so much for reading.

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