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Arianna Smith
500+ Word Book Review REVISION
Due Date: Feb. 28

Those interested in investigative journalism who know the names Woodward and Bernstein - the
reporters who probed the Nixon Watergate scandal – probably know the name Ben Bradlee, the
executive editor of the Washington Post that supported them during the investigation.
Bradlee’s memoir, “A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures” was published in 1996
and details not only his involvement and opinion of Watergate, but also his philosophy about the
profession of journalism, key events in his career and why he thinks his upbringing and
experiences made him the reporter that he was.
“‘A Good Life’ is good reading for buyers of buoyant biography and must reading for media
mavens and journalism junkies,” wrote New York Times editor William Safire, in his
publication’s review of the book. “Mr. Bradlee does not tell all, but he tells a lot, and that
Similar to other biographies, Bradlee’s book is written in the form of first-person point of view.
“The language used by Mr. Bradley in this memoir might offend or off put some,” said reviewer
C. John Sommerville, “because yes, he curses, almost comparably to Nixon. But the language is
real and fresh and honest. He’s a salty old pirate and that is what you fall in love with while
reading this.”
According to the book, Bradlee had a “comfortable, callous childhood” in Boston that was
followed by an education at Harvard and a tour with the U.S. Navy during World War II as a
communications officer.
“The first time a man goes into battle — making eye contact with someone trying to kill him —
is strangely like the first time a man makes love to a woman,” Bradlee wrote. “The anticipation
is overpowering; the ignorance is obstructive; the fear of disgrace is consuming; and survival is
In 1946 Bradlee entered journalism as a reporter at the New Hampshire Sunday News, which he
helped start. In the book, he said that journalism saved him from a life of “boredom and
“Only two things would have settled my mind after the army- journalism or being a damned
teacher,” Bradlee wrote. “And my intelligence wouldn’t have survived becoming a teacher.”
Bradlee wrote that after his time at the New Hampshire Sunday News, he “bounced around” to
other news outlets, working his way up through the hierarchy until he found himself in an
editorial position at the Washington Post. He was married twice and had two children. His first
wife was Mary Pinchot Bradshaw, the sister in law of Antoinette Bradshaw, who was alleged to
be a mistress of John. F Kennedy.
The memoir documents Bradlee’s career at the Washington Post and the inner workings of the
paper during the release of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon’s presidency and Watergate.
Bradlee described the Watergate scandal, coverage of the incidents therein, and his paper’s role
in breaking the stories to the public as “the most exciting time to be a journalist” because he
“always dreamed of putting politicians in jail from his corner office.”
Bradlee expressed regret at how the situation was handled regarding the use of anonymous
“I settled for that and maybe I shouldn’t have,” Bradlee wrote. “While the ends justified the
means, anonymous sources were used too much. They just were, and there’s no denying that. We
were flying half blind. Thank God it all turned out to be true.”
Bradlee wrote about his growing disdain for what he called “new age media” and the rising
celebrity culture of journalism. He said that he is firmly old fashioned and that journalism should
“reach up and grab you by the throat when you’re doing wrong.”
“Journalists shouldn’t thrive on looking pretty on TV and little postings online. We thrive on not
knowing exactly what the future holds,” Bradlee wrote. “That's part of the excitement.
Something interesting, something important, will happen somewhere, as sure as God made sour
apples, and a good aggressive newspaper will become part of that something.”