Ben Bradlee Quotes

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee

Born: 26 August 1921, Boston, Massachusetts

Born into the “Brahmin” Crowninshield family, Bradlee was educated at Dexter School and St. Mark’s School before entering Harvard University. He joined the Naval ROTC at Harvard, finished his BA in under three years, and was commissioned in the Office of Naval Intelligence two hours later. He served on a destroyer in the Pacific, handling communications but taking part in every landing of the Solomon Islands and Philippines campaigns. He spent two years reporting in New Hampshire before moving to the Washington Post in 1948, then became press attaché in the American Embassy at Paris. He returned to journalism by joining the Newsweek staff in Europe, helped arrange the sale of that magazine to the Washington Post Company, and became managing editor at that paper in 1965. He became executive editor in 1968, in 1991 he retired and is now “Vice President at Large”. He is best known as Woodward and Bernstein’s editor during Watergate, but hesitated to print the “Pentagon Papers” until the New York Times published parts of them, and also was in charge at the time of Janet Cooke’s fictitious story of an eight-year-old heroin addict.

Ben Bradlee quotes:

As a child, one looks for compliments. As an adult, one looks for evidence of effectiveness.
    Ben Bradlee

Everybody who talks to a newspaper has a motive. That’s just a given. And good reporters always, repeat always, probe to find out what that motive is.
    Ben Bradlee

Generals who can write always make me nervous.
    Ben Bradlee

I didn’t need Jason Robards to tell me that if we were wrong the damage to the paper would be incalculable.
    Ben Bradlee

I do worry about how newspapers respond to falling circulation figures. I’m not sure that the answer is for newspapers to try to cater to whatever seems to be the fad of the day.
    Ben Bradlee

I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but we’re in a holy profession.
    Ben Bradlee

I must be out of it, but I don’t know any good journalists who have excused Clinton’s problems.
    Ben Bradlee

I never believed that Nixon could fully resurrect himself. And the proof of that was in the obits.
    Ben Bradlee

I’m a maximum information man myself.
    Ben Bradlee

I’m sure that Nixon’s paranoia stemmed in part from Vietnam, although probably not as much as Lyndon Johnson’s.
    Ben Bradlee

If an investigative reporter finds out that someone has been robbing the store, that may be “gotcha” journalism, but it’s also good journalism.
    Ben Bradlee

In the perfect world every source could be identified, but like the man said, “It’s not a perfect world.”
    Ben Bradlee

It changes your life, the pursuit of truth, if you know that you have tried to find the truth and gone past the first apparent truth towards the real truth. It’s very, it’s very exciting.
    Ben Bradlee

It is my experience that most claims of national security are part of a campaign to avoid telling the truth.
    Ben Bradlee

It’s very hard to stand up to the government which is saying that publication will threaten national security. People don’t seem to realize that reporters and editors know something about national security and care deeply about it.
    Ben Bradlee

Maybe some of today’s papers have too many “feel-good” features, but there is a lot of good news out there.
    Ben Bradlee

National security is a really big problem for journalists, because no journalist worth his salt wants to endanger the national security, but the law talks about anyone who endangers the security of the United States is going to go to jail. So, here you are, especially in the Pentagon. Some guy tells you something. He says that’s a national security matter. Well, you’re supposed to tremble and get scared and it never, almost never means the security of the national government. More likely to mean the security or the personal happiness of the guy who is telling you something.
    Ben Bradlee

She [Katharine Graham] was the premier American publisher, … She got tested more than most of them, and she stood up with such bravery.
    Ben Bradlee

Sure, some journalists use anonymous sources just because they’re lazy and I think editors ought to insist on more precise identification even if they remain anonymous.
    Ben Bradlee

The biggest difference between Kennedy and Nixon, as far as the press is concerned, is simply this: Jack Kennedy really liked newspaper people and he really enjoyed sparring with journalists.
    Ben Bradlee

The champagne was flowing like the Potomac in flood.
    Ben Bradlee

The history of American politics is littered with bodies of people who took so pure a position that they had no clout at all.
    Ben Bradlee

The really tough thing would have been to decide to take Woodward and Bernstein off the story. They were carrying the coal for us in that their stories were right.
    Ben Bradlee

There have been as many investigative reporters on this newspaper working on Clinton’s many problems as I can remember there were working on Watergate.
    Ben Bradlee

There will always be leaks; in Washington, everywhere.
    Ben Bradlee

We made only one real mistake. And even then we were right.
    Ben Bradlee

We’re trying to tell you everyday what really went on in the last 24 hours, that’s all, not what they said happened and not what you think should happen, but what did happen.
    Ben Bradlee

Woodward and Bernstein were, in fact, very young and green but they were right. I was under some pressure to put one of the many talented veterans on the story but how could you take the story away from people who were doing such a good job?
    Ben Bradlee

You never monkey with the truth.
    Ben Bradlee

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