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Washington Post's Ben Bradlee receives lifetime achievement award

10/27/2008

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor
217-333-2894; cdchambe@illinois.edu

Bradlee
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Benjamin Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post, is the second recipient of the Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Benjamin Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post through more than two decades, during which the paper broke the Watergate scandal and won 18 Pulitzer Prizes, has been awarded the Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

The prize was awarded Friday (Oct. 24) at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., following an evening reception and dinner.

Bradlee is the second person to receive the Illinois Prize, which honors individuals whose career contributions to public affairs reporting represent the highest and best achievements of American journalism. He follows “60 Minutes” newsman Mike Wallace, who received last year’s inaugural award.

The recipient is selected by the University of Illinois journalism faculty to honor “work that consistently served as a beacon for other journalists, set the highest standards of excellence in the field, and placed the public good and public awareness before all else.”

Ben Bradlee with Ron Yates, Walt Harrington and Richard Herman
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From left, Ron Yates, dean of the College of Media; Walt Harrington, chair of the department of journalism; Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post; and U. of I. Chancellor Richard Herman gather at the Oct. 24 reception honoring Bradlee, who was awarded the Illinois Prize. Bradlee was selected by the U. of I. journalism faculty.

“Ben Bradlee is the perfect winner of our lifetime achievement award,” said Walt Harrington, the head of the journalism department at Illinois. “Ben embodies the values of scrupulously accurate, fiercely independent, compelling journalism. The Illinois Prize is meant to remind aspiring young journalists and the public that fine reporting, writing and editing is not a thing of the past.”

Bradlee, who turned 87 in August, graduated from Harvard University in 1942 and served in the Pacific with the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Returning from the war in 1946, he became a reporter with the New Hampshire Sunday News and then joined The Washington Post two years later.

In 1951, he became a press attaché at the U.S. embassy in Paris and two years later joined Newsweek magazine’s Paris bureau, from which he covered the Anglo-French invasion of Suez and the Algerian rebellion.

In 1957, Bradlee came to Washington, D.C., and soon became Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief. In 1965, he rejoined the Washington Post as its managing editor and three years later became its executive editor, a position he would hold until retirement in 1991.

On his watch, in 1971, the Post challenged the federal government for the right to publish the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study of the U.S. role in Vietnam. A year later, Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein began their investigation of a Washington hotel burglary, which developed into the Watergate scandal and resulted in the resignation of Richard Nixon as president.

In 1995, Bradlee published his memoirs, “A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures.” In a previous book, “Conversations With Kennedy,” published in 1975, Bradlee described the John F. Kennedy he got to know behind the scenes as a neighbor and confidant, starting in 1958 and running through Kennedy’s presidency until his death.

Since retirement Bradlee also has taught journalism courses at Georgetown University and continues in the position of vice president-at-large at the Post.