Ben Bradlee, who oversaw the Washington Post’s reporting on the Watergate scandal that brought down US president Richard Nixon, has died at the age of 93.
Bradlee, who died of natural causes at his Washington DC home on Tuesday, leaves a lasting legacy at the Washington Post and in the wider media, and has been hailed as a genius and for having “the courage of an army”.
Donald E Graham, who served as publisher of the Post and was Bradlee’s boss, said: “Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor.”
It was Graham’s mother, Katharine Graham, who was publisher of the Washington Post when Bradlee charged young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with investigating the Watergate burglary.
The reporting uncovered a vast scheme of surveillance and dirty tricks, and the resulting coverage led to the impeachment and resignation of Nixon in 1974, and the prosecution of dozens of administration officials.
“Ben was a true friend and genius leader in journalism,” Bernstein and Woodward said in a joint statement on the Washington Post website as news of his death emerged.
“His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit. He had the courage of an army.”
President Barack Obama, who awarded Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year, said that for the newspaper man, “journalism was more than a profession – it was a public good vital to our democracy”.
During Bradlee’s leadership of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1991, he inspired reporters who “told stories that needed to be told – stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better”, Obama said.
Bradlee’s reign as editor saw the Washington Post win the Pulitzer Prize for its Watergate stories, and the respected newspaper also played a role in the successful legal challenge to the publication of the Pentagon Papers revealing the political manoeuvres leading up to the Vietnam War.
The Watergate coverage transformed the notion of political investigative journalism, and became the topic of a best-selling book, and later a film, All the President’s Men. — Al Jazeera.