Best Defense

A farewell to Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee died. He was a great journalist. It was his spirit more than anything else. I never worked directly for him, but in his retirement he still hung out a lot at the Post, and he always was a motivator. What does he mean to readers of this blog? Consider this: During World War ...

via Wikimedia
via Wikimedia

Ben Bradlee died. He was a great journalist. It was his spirit more than anything else. I never worked directly for him, but in his retirement he still hung out a lot at the Post, and he always was a motivator.

What does he mean to readers of this blog? Consider this: During World War II, as a very young naval officer, he taught old skippers how to fight from the combat information center, rather than from the bridge. This was because, for the first time in history, naval battles were fought "over the horizon," with ships getting information from radar, radio and aircraft, and launching aircraft to fly out of sight to attack other ships. To be successful required a mental leap. He wound up with 10 battle stars on his theater ribbon.

He later observed that his war experience was great preparation for running a newspaper: You had to go into the fight every day, holding in your head a sense of the threat environment, but you also had to control your resources so that you would be prepared to fight the next day.

This feels to me like the equivalent of the passing of a newspaper Gavin or Patton.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1
Tag: Media

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