A Good Life

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A GOOD LIFE: NEWSPAPERING AND OTHER ADVENTURES narrates the life of Ben Bradlee, a Boston Brahmin by birth who became editor of THE WASHINGTON POST. Following his education at St. Marks School and Harvard, where he majored in English and Greek, Bradlee entered military service as a junior naval officer in the South Pacific. After the conclusion of World War II, he began his career in journalism, first on an obscure New England weekly, later with NEWSWEEK, and then as a reporter with THE WASHINGTON POST. Eventually he became executive editor of the newspaper and supervised the publication of important news events.

While Bradlee provides abundant biographical details, the memoir represents primarily a detailed account of his career. His big break in news reporting appeared after he became friends with a new Georgetown neighbor, Senator John F. Kennedy. Their relationship gave Bradlee an inside track on many Washington political stories. After Kennedy became president, their friendship cooled largely because Bradlee was inclined to publish stories that Kennedy thought should be off the record. After becoming executive editor of the POST in 1968, Bradlee was responsible for editorial policy regarding stories such as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

Bradlee’s account explains his own values as a journalist and his struggles with ascertaining proper editorial policy. He clearly prizes investigative journalism and generally believes that known facts should be reported. At the same time, he explores the complexity that editors face when handling stories involving national security or those revealing highly personal matters that once seemed off limits to reporters.

Sources for Further Study

Columbia Journalism Review. XXXIV, November, 1995, p. 60.

Los Angeles Times. October 3, 1995, p. E1.

The Nation. CCLXI, October 23, 1995, p. 470.

New Choices. XXXV, November, 1995, p. 5.

The New Republic. CCXIII, November 20, 1995, p. 40.

The New York Times Book Review. C, October 1, 1995, p. 11.

The New Yorker. LXXI, September 18, 1995, p. 76.

Psychology Today. XXVIII, November, 1995, p. 30.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLII, August 14, 1995, p. 62.

The Wall Street Journal. September 22, 1995, p. A12.

The Washington Monthly. XXVII, November, 1995, p. 44.

The Washington Post. October 3, 1995, p. A2.