For better or worse, Bradlee brought
key features of midcentury American magazines to the daily-newspaper business.
Inspired by his work on Newsweek in
the 1950s, he invested then-unusual amounts of time and money in long-form
features, and he pioneered the Style section, now a standard feature of daily
papers, to emphasize "soft news." (That he did this in Washington,
D.C., means that he can largely be blamed for the modern trend of covering
politicians as celebrities.) Additionally, the Post on his watch was the first major paper to hire an ombudsman to
self-police the paper's ethics, a position that helped shield its reputation
when the Janet Cooke scandal forced it to return one of its many Pulitzer
Though his, and the Post's, adversarial relationship with
the Nixon administration was legendary, Bradlee was otherwise dogged, throughout
his career, by allegations that he was closer to official power than a journalist
should be. He'd struck up a friendship with John F. Kennedy when the two were
neighbors in Georgetown in the 1950s, and maintained an unusual level of access
once JFK was elected president; he later recounted their
"confidential" conversations in a best-selling book. In the '80s and
'90s, with his journalistic reputation firmly established, he and his third
wife, the Post journalist Sally Quinn,
were key members of the Georgetown cocktail-party elite, and critics have claimed
that official Washington's distaste for the Clintons derived, in part, from
Hillary Clinton once turning down an invitation to a party at the Bradlees'.
Ben Bradlee died on October 21, at
93. Fireball, Headless Horseman, and Kixco get three points each for the hit.