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Former Washington Post exec editor Benjamin Bradlee passes away

MUMBAI: Former Washington Post executive editor Benjamin C Bradlee, who led the newspaper during the Watergate era, passed away yesterday at his home in Washington.

Aged 93, Bradlee presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years, guiding its transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers.

Although he is stated to have died of natural causes, The Washington Post had reported late last month that its former editor was under medical care after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the past several years.

Benjamin BradleeBorn into an aristocratic Boston family on 26 August 1921, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee attended Harvard University and served in the Pacific during World War II before starting a New Hampshire newspaper in 1946.

He started his career at The Washington Post in 1948 as a police reporter. He quit to become a press attaché at the US Embassy in Paris, then Newsweek magazine’s Paris correspondent and its Washington bureau chief. He returned to the Post and was named managing editor in 1965 and promoted to executive editor in 1968, holding the job until his retirement in 1991.

Known to be a hard-driving editor with the style of a well-dressed swashbuckler with a raspy voice, he was instrumental in helping topple President Richard Nixon following the Watergate Scandal.

Bradlee was the executive editor from 1968 until 1991 and during this period engineered the Post’s reinvention, bringing in a cast of talented journalists and setting editorial standards that brought the paper new respect.

Some of his most celebrated work across journalism schools is when he guided young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they traced a 1972 burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office and apartment complex back to the White House.

The newspaper also won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the scandal, forcing Nixon to quit under threat of impeachment in August 1974. The Post published around 400 articles on Watergate over 28 months.

Moreover, they also uncovered details of the Iran-Contra scandal that rocked Ronald Reagan’s stay at the White House.

The low point in Bradlee’s career involved a 1981 Pulitzer for the Post that was withdrawn after the Post itself revealed that reporter Janet Cooke had invented her story of an eight-year-old heroin user. Bradlee, whose offer to resign over the debacle was rejected, said it was a cross he would bear forever.

Bradlee had a close friendship with former US president John F Kennedy, who had been his neighbour in Washington’s Georgetown district when Bradlee was a Newsweek correspondent. In 1975 he wrote a book titled ‘Conversations with Kennedy’.

As per reports, under Bradlee, the Post doubled its editorial staff to 600, increased its news budget from $3 million to $60 million and boosted its circulation from 446,000 to 802,000 readers.

He was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.