WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014
Style section, then Richard Nixon: We never met Ben Bradlee. Manifestly, he seemed like a very impressive man.
Until today, we hadn’t realized that Bradlee was such a major swell. Before we praise his mother, let us record these unusual facts, from the world’s leading authority:
“Josephine de Gersdorff, Bradlee's mother, was a direct descendant of Heinrich XXIX, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf, who was a lineal descendant of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, King John of Denmark and King John II of France and Bonne of Bohemia and John V, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. Bradlee's maternal great grandfather was Dr. Ernst Bruno von Gersdorff, who was a third cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom through Heinrich XXIX.”
Our own mother wasn’t descended from the Holy Roman Emperor. She just thought she was.
Now, for that impressive claim. We don’t know if this is accurate:
“His mother, Josephine de Gersdorff (1896–1975), was awarded the French Legion of Honor for helping keep children safe from Nazi Germany during World War II.”
To state the obvious, that's a tremendous claim to be able to make.
We spent some time this morning thinking about Bradlee’s legacy. It seems that people who knew him admired him. Plus, he invented the Washington Post’s Style section, and he led the Watergate chase.
Style, and Nixon’s forced resignation! These are very important elements in modern newspaper culture, not necessarily in good ways.
That takes nothing away from their invention. We’re talking about where they led.
We were already planning to spend next week discussing the press corps’ coverage of White House campaigns post-Nixon.
We’ve become more and more intrigued by what happened to the coverage starting with Candidate Muskie. The invention of “Style section journalism” is fairly clearly part of that tale. So too for the pursuit of Nixon, in which, as far as we know, the work was respectable, good.
That said, even Maximilian I couldn’t have saved us from the culture which followed. Increasingly, we’re intrigued by how badly the trends have worked against presidential-level Democrats, even as we in the liberal world keep cheering those trends along.
As far as we know, Ben Bradlee was sharp. After Bradlee, the whirlwind?