Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ed Bradley (1941-2006)

I was both stunned and saddened this morning when I learned of the death — from leukemia, at the age of 65 — of veteran CBS newsman and 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley.

I hadn't even known that he was ill.

When I was studying broadcast journalism in college in the early 1980s, Bradley had recently completed a stint as CBS' White House correspondent and anchor of the network's Sunday evening newscast, prior to joining the 60 Minutes team. In those mad moments when I actually aspired to a career in the field, Ed Bradley symbolized the kind of journalist I wanted to be. He was authoritative without being stuffy or condescending, tough without being combative, and unflappable in the most chaotic of situations.

Ed Bradley was a journalist's journalist. His career accomplishments read like a Hollywood script: 19 Emmy Awards, plus enough duPont, Peabody, and Overseas Press Club Awards to sink a battleship. Bradley was wounded in the field while covering the Vietnam War; on the scene when Cambodia and 'Nam fell; landed the only television interview granted by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; interviewed countless public figures with grace and gravitas.

And, of course, became the first male network broadcaster to wear an earring on camera. Only Ed Bradley was cool enough to get away with that.

I always enjoyed Bradley on 60 Minutes as the perfect balance between the old-school pomp and bombast of Mike Wallace and the slicker, more modern approach of some of the show's more recent additions. Unlike Wallace, I never got the sense that the focus of Bradley's reports was himself, as opposed to his subjects. Ed knew when to push hard and get in an interviewee's craw when the situation called for it, but he always kept his iron fist in a velvet glove.

In 2000, Bradley received the Paul White Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. The highest honor given by the RTNDA, the Paul White Award recognizes an individual's lifetime contributions to electronic journalism. Without question, Bradley's career warranted the honor.

Sad to think that such a noteworthy lifetime is now ended.

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