“If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off.” Ben Bradlee on ire

I’m never really willing to get engaged in outrage over who has been fired from exec positions because you never really know what is going on in an organization from the outside looking in, but I have been enjoying reading through the various entries on how difficult it is to run a major newspaper as a woman. So far, two of my favorites are:

Editing while female by Susan Glasser of Politico:

And that’s the point: The leaders who succeed are the ones who are allowed to make mistakes, who have the time and space and breathing room and support from their bosses to push and prod, experiment and improvise until they get it right.

And from Kara Swisher at re/code Dear Jill: From One Pushy Media Dame to Another, an excellent summary on how you have to be pushy (duh!) to do your job, including this very nice memory about Ben Bradlee of the WashPo who nurtured along a lot of young reporters:

I actually learned that skill when I was a really young reporter at the Washington Post, when the legendary Ben Bradlee still held sway over the newsroom. He was every single fantastic thing people think of him as: Tough, smart, profane, funny, difficult and, yes, often very pushy.

He hardly knew who I was, of course, but one time when I was working in the business section covering the rapidly declining retail landscape in the Washington area, the lifeblood of the Post’s business, he did me a solid I have never forgotten. A major mogul who paid for a lot of the bills for the newspaper was haranguing me — via phone and via peckish lawyers — for being too hard on him in my coverage of the spectacular meltdown of his family business.

It was a mess through and through, and I had not backed off so far, but I had to admit I was scared when the heat from the mogul got a little stifling. Bradlee — who loved my stories of this retail version of “Dallas” and now and then came over and asked, “Whatcha got today, kid?” (he actually said “kid”) — was there when such a call came through and could see I was distressed.

After I explained the situation, he took only one second to give me a piece of advice that I have been following since: “If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off.”

Words to live by in scholarship as well.

One thought on ““If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off.” Ben Bradlee on ire

  1. If I take Bradlee’s advice, I’ll be telling Ph.D.s to “f#*k off” a lot- a whole lot.

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