Last night I watched All the President’s Men as a personal tribute to Ben Bradlee who died last week.  Bradlee was the editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal.  Nixon’s resignation occurred just a few years before I entered college as a journalism major, so we talked a lot in class about the Post’s coverage and the implications for our profession.  

Bernstein and Woodward showed great tenacity in pursuing leads and finding the story, but none of it would have been published if it weren’t for the courage of Ben Bradlee.  He had two young reporters, lots of anonymous sources and implications of crimes in the highest levels of government.  It was gutsy of him to give the stories the green light.  

At the time, it would have been so much easier for him to bury the story.  No other media outlet was reporting on it.  The White House press secretary was belittling him by name.  Even people in his own newsroom were skeptical.

But Bradlee took the heat and allowed Bernstein and Woodward to press on.  His willingness to “stand by our boys” changed the course of history.  

When Bradlee retired in 1991, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “the editor’s standards would endure for ages hence.”  Try to do your job in such a way that the same could be said about you when you pass the mantle.

— beth triplett
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