It has nothing to do with motor racing, but I feel the urge to mark the passing of Ben Bradlee, a man who did so much to define what good journalism should be – and who was not scared to take on the authorities when he felt it was necessary.
Bradley made his name with Newsweek in Paris in the 1950s, notably interviewing members of the Algerian National Liberation Front, which was battling for independence from France. This earned him an expulsion order (which he fought) but he returned to the US and became Newsweek’s Washington Bureau chief and when the magazine became part of the Washington Post group he moved on to become managing editor at the Post in 1965. He became executive editor in 1968 and remained in that role for the next 23 years. In 1971 he began publishing a State Department internal history of the Vietnam War from 1945-1967, which had been discovered by military analyst Daniel Ellsberg. This highlighted the dubious nature of some of the government decision-making and Bradlee felt that this should be debated publicly under the terms of the First Amendment. The Pentagon Papers, as they were known, were a significant step towards the end of US direct military involvement in Vietnam in 1973 and the revision of the Freedom of Information Act which gave the public better access to government documentation.
Bradlee went on to oversee the publication of stories that uncovered the Watergate Scandal, written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, which would ultimately result in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Bradlee was also a significant advocate of improving education and the study of history as a way to avoid repeating the mistakes made by previous generations.