Ben Bradlee’s death reminds us why so many got into journalism

by Kent Sterling

Jason Robards won an Academy Award and the hearts of young journalists everywhere with his portrayal of Ben Bradlee in "All the President's Men."

Jason Robards won an Academy Award and the hearts of young journalists everywhere with his portrayal of Ben Bradlee in “All the President’s Men.”

When I saw “All the President’s Men” in a Louisville movie theater in 1976, I thought exposing conspiratorial hubris like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did during Watergate would be the coolest thing anyone could do with a professional life.

And working for a boss as cool as Jason Robards’ portrayal of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee would be the icing on the cake.  Robards won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work on the film as much for being such a great boss for Woodward and Bernstein as for his acting chops.

Bradley died yesterday, but he will be forever remembered for his decision to “stand by the boys” when Richard Nixon’s White House did everything possible to discredit the accurate reporting by Woodward & Bernstein that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation.

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The number of people who were influenced to become reporters because of that movie must number damn near everyone who saw it.

Unfortunately, stories like Watergate don’t come along everyday – or every decade.  Presidents rarely are plagued by Nixon’s combination of insecurity and arrogance, his cronies are rarely that stupid, and reporters are usually not allowed to be that diligent.

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