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November 28, 2007

All The President's Men

As long as I'm saying unkind things about Benjamin Bradlee, here he is appearing with Don Hewitt at the JFK library in Boston in December, 2004:

AUDIENCE: The Washington Post did admit that they didn't do enough adequate coverage of the lead-up to the war. So how do you think you fixed that, since then?...

BRADLEE: I was embarrassed by that piece, if you want the truth. And I thought that The New York Times piece was just as embarrassing. I don't think they really have a hell of a lot to hang their head about.....And if you think that maybe this story stretches this too much, maybe this doesn't exactly fit your preconception of it, you've got to lump that.

Here's a picture of one young lady who's taken Bradlee's advice to heart and is "lumping it":

EXTRA: Here's The Powers That Be by David Halberstam, describing the Washington Post's decision to go public in 1971:

But the future called: if going public was what was demanded, then go public Katharine Graham would. "Otis," she said somewhat plaintively to her friend Otis Chandler, whose family had preceded her in this course, "do I really have to make my salary public?" Otis assured her that she did.

That upset her some but nearly as much as it upset Ben Bradlee, who decided that he could not edit the paper if every reporter knew his salary, then about $100,000. So he resigned from the board...a few years later his name turned up in a list of Post stockholders who had 1 percent or more of the paper's stock. His own reporters did some rough calculations and decided that his stock was worth at least $3 million. When it was brought to his attention that this might in fact mean he was a wealthy man, Bradlee answered: No, no, if anyone knew how far he had had to go into debt to buy that stock, no one would think him wealthy...why, half of that $3 million was borrowed, he said.

The median U.S. income at the time was about $10,000.

(Thanks to Susan H for mentioning it was worth digging up the Boston event.)

Posted at November 28, 2007 03:43 PM

Robert Novak suffers from a related condition to Ben Bradlee's.

The money was not much. In 1957 the AP paid him $125 a week, about $9,000 a year in 2006 dollars, he reckons, and the Journal started him at $160. Unlike most journalists, Novak is not shy about discussing money. He seems to think that people believe he has made a fortune and is at pains to dispel the notion. The best year of his entire career, he says, was 2004 when his adjusted gross income was $1.2 million. In 2006 he made "a lot less." The greater part of his income in these years came from various cable TV jobs; at one time he was making $625,000 a year from his work for CNN. His present financial worth is "in the high single-digit millions," he says. []

It need hardly be said that $125/week in 1957 is actually a salary of about $46,000/year; not huge, but hardly $9,000/yr. That he thinks that people earning $9000/yr are doing this well could probably explain any position he took on low income people.

Posted by: Erik at November 28, 2007 05:35 PM

But does he have enough now to make Plamegate disappear? (I don't think ANYBODY has that much)(treason is as treason does)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 28, 2007 06:55 PM

It's not just the money. Remember the story, told at Katharine Graham's funeral, how Ben and wife Sally Quinn and Katharine the Great almost ran down a parking lot attendant and roared with laughter. Ben was driving.
There's us and there's them. The life of "little people" is cheap.

Posted by: donescobar at November 28, 2007 06:55 PM

What story is that? I haven't heard it.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 28, 2007 07:24 PM

Here's some of the stuff Bradlee was "embarrassed by" (WaPo, Aug 12, 2004):

In retrospect, said [WaPo] Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., "we were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration's rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on my part."

Reporter Karen DeYoung, a former assistant managing editor who covered the prewar diplomacy, said contrary information sometimes got lost. "If there's something I would do differently -- and it's always easy in hindsight -- the top of the story would say, 'We're going to war, we're going to war against evil.' But later down it would say, 'But some people are questioning it.' The caution and the questioning was buried underneath the drumbeat. . . . The hugeness of the war preparation story tended to drown out a lot of that stuff."

On Sept. 19, 2002, reporter Joby Warrick described a report "by independent experts who question whether thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes recently sought by Iraq were intended for a secret nuclear weapons program," as the administration was contending. The story ran on Page A18.

Posted by: Don Bacon at November 28, 2007 08:40 PM

Was in the Post at time of K's funeral.
She didn't drive. Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn were driving her to (from?) party in DC area. Ben was pissed. Took long time to get car. When it came, he took the wheel and raced through parking lot, almost hitting terrified parking lot attendant. Well, the three DC aristocrats had one rousing laugh at that little encounter with one of the "little people." Moral: Even society queens have a sense of humor, just like you and me.

Well, maybe not quite like you and me.
But maybe, when she could take a break from her days and nights of philanthropic work and evenings with Meals on Wheels, maybe she just chilled by watching reruns of "Gilligan's Island." Or, maybe not. But the old broad loved a good laugh on a crazy night out with Ben and Sally in a parking lot.

Posted by: donescobar at November 28, 2007 10:42 PM

Poor Bob Novak -- "His present financial worth is 'in the high single-digit millions'" -- has anyone thought to take up a collection?

And the nearly destitute Ben Bradlee; one can only imagine the horrors he had to endure to collect enough money to buy $3 mil. worth of Washington Post Co. stock. Sally Quinn no doubt had to forego expensive trinkets on her birthday to amass such a pittance; perhaps they had to buy Smirnoff for their cocktail party guests, and hide the bottle under the sink.

It just a good thing the folks out in Flyover Country have such a compassionate heart when it comes to DC insiders and their terrible economic woes. I can hear a sturdy Iowan now: "I may be losing my house, but Bob Novak can barely make ends meet!" Or maybe a Chicagoan who just got his first doubled winter heating bill: "I don't know if I can afford heat and health care this winter, but at least I'm not facing starvation like the Bradlees."

Makes you wonder why the national media is hated my so many Americans.

Posted by: RS Janes at November 29, 2007 08:36 AM