Ben Bradlee is best known for working as the Editor of the Washington Post for 26 years and presiding over the staff that broke the Watergate scandal, reporting that resulted in the only resignation of a U.S. president. He also made the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, which proved that the Johnson administration lied to the public and Congress about the war in Vietnam.
In his tenure as Editor, he left a legacy for future journalists to emulate and strive to live up to.
On Tuesday the Collegian was faced with its own scandal. A government official accused us of electioneering, or campaigning, for a senatorial candidate on our front page. Our newspapers were moved from the racks in the north end of the Lory Student Center, a decision that was unconstitutional and violated our First Amendment rights.
I sat in a small office with my co-editor Kate Winkle and our faculty advisor Neill Woelk as we huddled around a conference call first with our accuser and then with our attorney as we tried to understand what happened and how it would be best for us to respond. We responded in the way we’ve been trained, by reporting on it. Once we understood we were in the right, we published an article about the incident.
Multiple news outlets in the state picked up the story and we responded to media requests throughout the afternoon and evening.
This kind of reporting is what Bradlee is famous for. This is the legacy for which we have Ben Bradlee to thank. While yesterday was not Watergate, the kind of reporting we did was inspired by the work Bradlee proved was possible. He showed all reporters what we’re capable of. He proved to the world the power of the press.
I want to thank the other news outlets who picked up our story and supported us yesterday. I want to thank our staff for supporting the publication they are a part of. But mostly, I want to thank Ben Bradlee for setting an example of the kind of journalist I want to be, the kind of editor I strive to emulate and for being a person with the kind of integrity that will be forever admired.
Mr. Bradlee, you will be forever missed and forever remembered. I hope we do you proud.
Collegian Content Managing Editor Kate Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @k8mckee.