Late Washington Post Editor Reprimands ‘Flack’ in Classic Letter


News of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s passing earlier this week rightly led many to declare an end of an era in journalism. A quick look at his paper today reveals protests by staffers unhappy with new owner/Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ management style — primarily his plans for staffing cuts.

But this Throwback Thursday revelation (which actually posted yesterday) reveals that some things never change: namely, the relationship between journalists and PRs who don’t know how to take “no” for an answer. Here’s the full letter Bradlee wrote to this guy about his misguided campaign to get the paper to run a profile on his client.

Also: PR has never liked the word “flack.” Shocker, we know. Full letter after the jump.

Dear Mr. Read:

I would like to impress upon you upfront that I thought your letter was offensive and completely unprofessional.

We need no help from flacks — whether or not they are called communications consultants–to advise us on out-of-town assignments, or, for that matter, in-town assignments.

May I also tell you that you stretch my credulity out of shape when you say your motivation is “to secure a rightful place in the annals of journalism for a historic personality.”

Whom are we talking about here? General Eisenhower? Jonas Salk?

On the substance of your letter, we have reviewed the circus every year. There were four stories on the circus in 1985.

I don’t see any purpose in meeting with you and Mr. Bloom. I would like to be sure that you understand we trust our editors’ news judgment and that we distrust yours.


Ben Bradlee

That hurt, but dude was out of line in demanding coverage after doing nothing to earn it.

The post is worth a read for some additional context and to check out the image of the original letter. The lesson here: understand that the media doesn’t really owe you anything. Reporters obviously need help from reps in many cases — just not this one.

You’d think a guy with a journalism background would know that…

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: October 23, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT