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Bill Thomas in 1983.
He was the top editor from 1972 to 1989.
Credit Los Angeles Times
Bill Thomas, 89, Dies;
Editor Guided Los Angeles Times to 9
By BRUCE WEBER
NYT FEB. 24, 2014
Alan Rusbridger in
Alan Rusbridger on
leaving the Guardian after two decades at the helm
Friday 29 May 2015 16.14 BST
The Guardian >
Ian Levack Aitken UK
Political editor of
in the 1970s and 80s
who covered the fall
of Ted Heath
and the rise of
The Guardian > editor
> Peter Preston 1938-2018 UK
The Guardian > editor
> Alan Rusbridger UK
The New York Times > Executive editor > Jill
editor in chief
USA > headline editor
Richard Ingrams UK
former Private Eye editor
Crowninshield Bradlee USA
Ben Bradlee (...)
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
Arthur Neal Gelb
at The New York Times for
lifting its metropolitan
and arts coverage to new heights
and helping to shape the paper
in its modern era
William F. Thomas
editor who led The Los Angeles Times
from the Watergate years
through the presidency of Ronald Reagan,
a period in which the paper
vastly enlarged its ambition
and won nine Pulitzer Prizes
Eugene Corbett Patterson
Pulitzer Prize-winning editor
of The Atlanta
during the civil rights conflicts of the 1960s
and later the managing editor of The Washington Post
and editor of The St. Petersburg Times in Florida
longtime editor of The Times of London
and one of Britain’s most respected,
if mercurial, conservative voices,
who rose to the defense of Richard M. Nixon
as well as the Rolling Stones
James Robert Whelan
founding editor and publisher
of The Washington Times,
the newspaper established in 1982
by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon
and his South Korea-based Unification Church
New York Times editorials: The Aftermath of 9/11
pen a full-page editorial
columnist Dear Abby
Pauline Esther Friedman,
familiarly known as Popo
who nearly 60 years ago,
more meaningful than mah-jongg,
into the syndicated columnist Dear Abby
— and in so doing became a trusted,
tart-tongued adviser to tens of millions —
editors' code of
conduct / press watchdogs UK
Editor Who Directed
Dies at 93
OCT. 21, 2014
The New York Times
By MARILYN BERGER
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.
Mr. Bradlee died at home of natural causes, The Post reported.
With full backing from his publisher, Katharine Graham, Mr. Bradlee led The Post
into the first rank of American newspapers, courting controversy and giving it
standing as a thorn in the side of Washington officials.
When government officials called to complain, Mr. Bradlee acted as a buffer
between them and his staff. “Just get it right,” he would tell his reporters.
Most of the time they did, but there were mistakes, one so big that the paper
had to return a Pulitzer Prize.
Mr. Bradlee — “this last of the lion-king newspaper editors,” as Phil Bronstein,
a former editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, described him — could be classy
or profane, an energetic figure with a boxer’s nose who almost invariably
dressed in a white-collared, bold-striped Turnbull & Asser shirt, the sleeves
When not prowling the newsroom like a restless coach, encouraging his handpicked
reporters and editors, he sat behind a glass office wall that afforded him a
view of them and them a view of him. “We would follow this man over any hill,
into any battle, no matter what lay ahead,” his successor, Leonard Downie Jr.,
His rise at The Post was swift. A former Newsweek reporter, as well as neighbor
and friend of John F. Kennedy’s, Mr. Bradlee rejoined the paper as deputy
managing editor in 1965 (he worked there for a few years as a reporter early in
his career). Within three months he was named managing editor, the second in
command; within three years he was executive editor.
The Post as he had found it was a sleepy competitor to The Evening Star and The
Washington Daily News, and he began invigorating it. He transformed the
“women’s” section into Style, a brash and gossipy overview of Washington mores.
He started building up the staff, determined “that a Washington Post reporter
would be the best in town on every beat,” as he wrote in a 1995 memoir, “A Good
Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures.” He added, “We had a long way to go.”
How long became painfully clear to him in June 1971, when The Post was scooped
by The New York Times on the Pentagon Papers, a secret government history of
United States involvement in Vietnam. After The Times printed excerpts for three
days, a federal court enjoined it from publishing any more, arguing that
publication would irreparably harm the nation. The Post, meanwhile, had obtained
its own copy of the papers and prepared to publish.
But The Post was on the verge of a $35 million stock offering, and publishing
could have scuttled the deal. At the same time, Mr. Bradlee was under pressure
from reporters threatening to quit if he caved in. It was up to Mrs. Graham to
choose. She decided to publish.
Cementing a Reputation
The government tried to enjoin The Post from publishing, as it had The Times,
but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of both papers. More than anything else,
Mr. Bradlee recalled, the publication of the Pentagon Papers “forged forever
between the Grahams and the newsroom a sense of confidence within The Post, a
sense of mission.”
Watergate consolidated The Post’s reputation as a crusading newspaper. A
break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate
complex on June 17, 1972 — the White House soon characterized it as a
“third-rate burglary” — caught the attention of two young reporters on the
metropolitan staff, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Soon they were working the
phones, wearing out shoe leather and putting two and two together.
With the help of others on the staff and the support of Mr. Bradlee and his
editors — and Mrs. Graham — they 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 (who ended up in prison) and the uncomfortable feeling of being alone on
the story of the century.
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.”
Mr. Bradlee’s Post and Woodward and Bernstein, as the two became known, captured
the popular imagination. Their exploits seemed straight out of a Hollywood
movie: two young reporters boldly taking on the White House in pursuit of the
truth, their spines steeled by a courageous editor.
The story, of course, became the basis of a best seller, “All the President’s
Men,” by Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein, and the book did become, in 1976, a
Hollywood box-office hit. Jason Robards Jr. played Mr. Bradlee and won an Oscar
for his performance.
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.”
After Watergate, journalism schools filled up with would-be Woodwards and
Bernsteins, and the business of journalism changed, taking on an even tougher
hide of skepticism than the one that formed during the Vietnam War.
“No matter how many spin doctors were provided by no matter how many sides of
how many arguments,” Mr. Bradlee wrote, “from Watergate on, I started looking
for the truth after hearing the official version of a truth.”
Mr. Bradlee had been consumed by Watergate, spending most of his waking hours at
The Post, when he started receiving what he called anonymous “mash notes.” His
second marriage, to the former Antoinette Pinchot, was cooling, and the
flirtation intrigued him. In 1973, Sally Quinn, an irreverent Style reporter,
let him know that she was his secret admirer.
After Mr. Bradlee’s divorce, a third marriage was a questionable proposition. He
said he once told a reporter that he would marry Ms. Quinn when the Catholic
Church elected a Polish pope. On Oct. 16, 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland
became pope; four days later, the couple were married.
Survivors include his wife and, The Post reported, their son, Quinn Bradlee;
three children from his previous marriages, Benjamin C. Bradlee Jr., Dominic
Bradlee and Marina Murdock; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee died in November 2011.
The Post’s Watergate coverage won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service. It
was one of 18 Pulitzers The Post received during Mr. Bradlee’s tenure. (It had
won only a handful before then.) The total would have been 19 if The Post had
not been compelled to return one awarded to a young reporter, Janet Cooke, for
an article, titled “Jimmy’s World,” about an 8-year-old drug addict whose heroin
supplier was his mother’s live-in lover. Only after she was given the prize was
it discovered that she had fabricated the story — and lied about her credentials
when she was hired.
Mr. Bradlee offered to resign over the affair but received the same support from
Mrs. Graham’s son Donald, who had become the publisher, as he had received from
Mrs. Graham during the Pentagon Papers and Watergate crises.
By the time of the Janet Cooke episode, Mr. Bradlee had weathered strikes by
members of the Newspaper Guild, many of them his friends, and the pressmen, who
had vandalized the pressroom. During those strikes he served as a reporter,
mailroom clerk and general lifter of spirits.
He had also endured libel suits and government efforts — unsuccessful ones — to
stop The Post from publishing articles on the ground of national security. In
one case even his own friends pressured him, to no avail, to a kill a story.
The article, appearing on the cover of the Style section on Sept. 19, 1986, had
to do with the discovery that the diplomat W. Averell Harriman had not, in fact,
been buried at the time of his funeral, on July 29 — and that his final resting
place would not, as had been widely reported, be next to that of his second
wife, Marie, on the Harriman estate, north of New York City. Rather, The Post
revealed, on the instructions of Pamela Harriman, Mr. Harriman’s third wife and
widow, his remains had been placed in a crypt while a permanent lakeside burial
site was being prepared three miles away.
Continue reading the main story
“The passage of time,” Mr. Bradlee wrote, “has done nothing to dim my enthusiasm
for this story. No one should be able to perpetrate a fraud on the public and
escape the modest consequences.”
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was born in Boston on Aug. 26, 1921, the second
son of Frederick Josiah Bradlee Jr. and Josephine de Gersdorff Bradlee. In a
family that moved from 211 Beacon Street to 295 Beacon Street to 267 Beacon
Street and finally to 280 Beacon Street, his boyhood, as he wrote, was “not
With his brother, Freddy, and a sister, Constance, he learned French, took piano
lessons and went to the symphony and the opera. He was at St. Mark’s School when
he was stricken with polio during an epidemic. But his self-confidence was
undiminished: He exercised rigorously at home, and when he returned to school
the next fall he had noticeably strong arms and chest and could walk without
Continuing a family tradition that dated to 1795, he attended Harvard, where he
joined the Naval R.O.T.C. As a sophomore he was one of 268 young Harvard men,
including John F. Kennedy, chosen, as “well adjusted,” to participate in the now
celebrated Grant longitudinal study, which tracked their lives over the years.
On Aug. 8, 1942, Mr. Bradlee graduated (“by the skin of his teeth,” he wrote of
himself) as a Greek-English major, was commissioned an ensign and married Jean
Saltonstall — all in all, a busy day.
A month later, Mr. Bradlee shipped out to the Pacific on the destroyer Philip
and saw combat for two years. During the last year of World War II he helped
other destroyers run shipboard information centers. After the war, Mr. Bradlee
and a group of friends started The New Hampshire Sunday News, a weekly. For a
time he thought “very, very, very seriously” about entering politics, he said in
1960. When the paper was sold, he snagged his first job at The Washington Post,
Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward reflected on the Watergate scandal and the role of
the anonymous source Deep Throat during a 2011 interview at the Richard Nixon
Presidential Library and Museum.
One Saturday, as he took a tour of the White House, a delegation of French
officials was visiting President Harry S. Truman and no translator could be
found. Mr. Bradlee filled in.
In 1951 he was offered the job of press attaché in Paris and left for France
with his wife and his young son, Benjamin Jr. From the embassy job he moved on
to Newsweek in 1954, as European correspondent based in Paris.
His work was thriving, but his marriage was falling apart and finally
disintegrated when he met Antoinette Pinchot Pittman, known as Tony. They were
married in 1957. A year later, Mr. Bradlee took up his post as the low man in
Newsweek’s Washington bureau.
He also took up residence on N Street in Georgetown, in a house next door to
Kennedy, then a young senator from Massachusetts. Thus began a rewarding and
sometimes uneasy friendship. (The two had not been close at Harvard.)
Mr. Bradlee fell under pressure to separate what information he learned as a
Kennedy intimate from what he could use as a reporter. But his inside track on
the Kennedy campaign for the White House in 1960 elevated him from rookie status
at Newsweek. He later said Kennedy had been aware that he was keeping notes of
their encounters, which Mr. Bradlee published in 1975 in the
not-always-flattering book “Conversations With Kennedy.”
As journalism changed and private lives became fair game, Mr. Bradlee had to
answer criticism that he never reported on what he later conceded was Kennedy’s
proclivity to jump “casually from bed to bed with a wide variety of women.” But
he insisted in his memoir that he knew nothing of Kennedy’s sex life at the
time, adding, “I am appalled by the details that have emerged.”
A Lucrative Idea
Concerned about rumors that Newsweek was going to be sold, Mr. Bradlee, in a
moment of brashness, decided late one night to call Philip Graham, the publisher
of The Washington Post, with an urgent message: Buy Newsweek.
“It was the best telephone call I ever made — the luckiest, most productive,
most exciting,” he later wrote.
Mr. Graham saw Mr. Bradlee that night, and they talked until dawn. On March 9,
1961, The Post acquired Newsweek, and Mr. Bradlee, soon to become the magazine’s
Washington bureau chief, was rewarded with enough Post stock, as a finder’s fee,
to live as a wealthy man.
Mr. Bradlee continued his friendship with Kennedy and the Kennedy clan. When the
president was assassinated in 1963, Mr. Bradlee was among the friends invited to
receive the first lady in Washington. “There is no more haunting sight in all
the history I’ve observed,” he wrote in his memoir, “than Jackie Kennedy,
walking slowly, unsteadily into those hospital rooms, her pink suit stained with
her husband’s blood.”
Months before Kennedy’s death, Philip Graham committed suicide, leaving his
widow, Katharine, in charge of the family business. Two years later she was
still finding her way at a newspaper that had been suffering losses of $1
million a year when she proposed that Mr. Bradlee join The Post as a deputy
managing editor. The two formed a lasting bond.
Their relationship came under scrutiny in a 2012 biography by Jeff Himmelman, a
journalist and former research assistant to Mr. Woodward. (Mr. Himmelman had
helped Quinn Bradlee write “A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and
Other Adventures,” a 2009 memoir about his coping with velo-cardio-facial
syndrome, a genetic disorder.)
The book, “Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee,” though praised
in reviews, was denounced by many Bradlee associates, including Mr. Woodward, as
a betrayal. The book suggests that Mr. Bradlee had questioned Mr. Woodward and
Mr. Bernstein’s reporting during Watergate. And through letters and interviews
it reveals intimate details of Mr. Bradlee’s family life, including an assertion
by Mr. Bradlee that he and Mrs. Graham, who died in 2001, had had a mutual
romantic interest that was never acted on.
Mr. Bradlee remained with the paper for 26 years, stepping down in 1991 at age
70. Named vice president at large, he had an office at The Post and became what
he called “a stop on the tour” for new reporters.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian
honor, in 2013.
In his memoir he confessed to having no overarching prescriptions for the
practice of journalism. He wrote that he knew of nothing more sophisticated than
the motto of one of his grade-school teachers: “Our best today; better
“Put out the best, most honest newspaper you can today,” he said, “and put out a
better one the next day.”
A version of this article appears
in print on October 22, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the
headline: A Washington Editor, and Watergate Warrior.
Editor Who Directed Watergate Coverage, Dies at 93,
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