Ed Bradley: A Journalist’s Legacy
Journalism has suffered a great loss. Ed Bradley died of complications from leukemia this morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Bradley's achievements are well documented after 26 years on CBS' "60 Minutes." When the National Association of Black Journalists awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, Bradley reminded the audience he was "not done yet ... There are many more stories to cover."
He loved jazz, as National Public Radio listeners know. He hosted Jazz at Lincoln Center for more than a decade.
See a number of historic Bradley clips by clicking here.
Here is a highlight reel from Bradley's career. Bradley was anchoring CBS News Nov. 4, 1979, when students overran the American Embassy in Iran.
The Maynard Institute provides these video clips of Bradley:
Radio - Popular Philadelphia DJ Georgie Woods introduces Bradley, a student at Cheyney College, to radio. Running Time 1:28
Riots - Bradley receives on-the-job training as a news reporter covering the Philadelphia riots of 1965. Running Time 1:40
Dr. King - With Dr. Martin Luther King running behind schedule, Bradley is forced to improvise during his first live radio broadcast. Running Time 2:19
WCBS - Bradley discusses what it was like to be the only black reporter at his radio station. Running Time 2:45
As his bio points out, his segment called "Death by Denial" (June 2000) won a Peabody Award for "focusing on the plight of Africans dying of AIDS and helped convince drug companies to donate and discount AIDS drugs"; "Unsafe Haven" (April 1999) "spurred federal investigations into the nation's largest chain of psychiatric hospitals"; and "Town Under Siege" (December 1997), "about a small town battling toxic waste, was named one of the Ten Best Television Programs of 1997 by Time magazine."
He took a camera in a jury room and gave us a real look at deliberations. He was the only TV journalist to interview Timothy McVeigh.
When Bradley interviewed singer Lena Horne (1917–) in December 1981, TV Guide described the journalist's work as "a textbook example of what a great television interview can be." Bradley alternated Horne's performances with interview segments in which Horne discussed her personal and professional life. Bradley created an intimate (personal) portrait of the singer. Bradley said "it told a lot about the way women are treated, a lot of things about the way blacks are treated. It told a lot of things about interracial marriages, difficulties in the film and entertainment industries and how those things have changed and not changed." Bradley has said that he feels "Lena" is among his best work. "Lena" won Bradley his first Emmy as a member of the "60 Minutes" team.
Two of my favorite Bradley segments were a piece he did with Willie Nelson. As they were climbing aboard horses, Nelson asked Bradley if he liked to ride. Bradley said "not especially" -- to which Nelson said, "Good, we gave you a horse that doesn't like to be ridden." This is actually a photo of that horse ride.
Another piece that really stuck with me was Bradley's re-examination of the death of Emmett Till.
More recently, Bradley made big news with his interview of the Duke Lacrosse players.
Here are some quotes attributed to Bradley, from the Web site Brainy Quote:
- And I always found that the harder I worked, the better my luck was, because I was prepared for that.
- And I realized that there was no sports reporter, so I started covering sporting events.
- At that point I was FM program director and I was doing a five- or six-hour music show, so I wasn't really doing news anymore.
- Be prepared, work hard, and hope for a little luck. Recognize that the harder you work and the better prepared you are, the more luck you might have.
- Because when it gets to the point where it's not fun anymore, I've always hoped that I would have the courage to say goodbye and walk away from it.
- But you know, I always said that no one else on my block was on the radio, and it was fun.
- I always felt more emotionally attached to Cambodia than I did to Vietnam.
- I did anything that would get me on the air.
- I got some shrapnel in my back and it blew a hole through my arm. It just sliced through my arm, so I was lucky. I was lucky.
- I grew up in a single-parent home, raised by my mother, but I spent time with my father who lived in another city.
- I guess it was over a year that I worked for no pay and when they did start paying me, I think I made about a dollar.
- I had had no training as a journalist and I used to listen to the CBS News hourly reports. That was my classroom.
- I had never been out covering a story, but boy, was that fun.
- I had no experience with broadcasting basketball games, so I took a tape recorder and went to a playground where there was a summer league, and I stood up in the top of the stands and I called the game.
- I knew that God put me on this earth to be on the radio.
- I made the decision to come back to New York, quit my job and move to Paris.
- I ran out of money in Paris. Fortunately, about the same time I ran out of money, CBS offered me a job as a stringer.
- I remember Walter going through some of the astronaut training in the early days of the space program. I remember Walter with Dwight Eisenhower after his presidency. Walter always went somewhere and did something. He wasn't just sitting at a desk, so in that sense, Walter was someone I looked up to.
- I taught sixth grade for three and a half years.
- I would listen to how they told the story, to what elements they used, to how it sounded, and that's who I patterned myself after, the people who were on CBS News.
- I'd watch my father get up at 5 o'clock and go down to the Eastern Market in Detroit to do the shopping for his restaurant, and get that business going and then go out on his vending machine business.
- It got me into the games for free, and it got me on the air reporting on the games, the fights, things like that.
- My mother worked in factories, worked as a domestic, worked in a restaurant, always had a second job.
- Probably my mother. She was a very compassionate woman, and always kept me on my feet. And I think part of it is just the way you are, the way you're raised. And she had the responsibility for raising me.
- Professionally, I remember Cronkite as a kid growing up, and more so for me, the importance of Cronkite was not him sitting there at the anchor desk, but him out there doing things.
- So I heard this reporter talking about a riot that was going on and I realized that he was a Philadelphia reporter.
- I will not go into a story unprepared. I will do my homework, and that's something I learned at an early age.
- So I just got on the phone and the engineer just patched me in and I did reports. I'd get a community leader and bring him to the phone, call up the station and do an interview over the phone with the guy.
- That's when I hit the ground. So in the instant that that round landed and blew me in the air, I had those separate and distinct thoughts. The guy who was standing right next to where I had been standing had a hole in his back I could put my fist into.
- The only thing I'd ever done with news was to read copy sitting at the microphone in the studio.
- The Paris peace talks kept a roof over my head and food on the table and clothes on my back because if something was said going in or coming out, I had the rent for the month.
- The people in your life are important. Meaningful relationships with those people are very important.
- Then I learned how to do wraparounds and things like that. I had no experience.
- There was no one around me who didn't work hard.
- Yeah, there's a lot of room for improvement. I'd like to see more minority executives. I'd like to see more opportunity for minorities off the air as well as on the air because that's where a lot of the decisions are made. I'm always looking for producers and associate producers.
- You can work hard to sharpen your talent, to get better at whatever it is that you do, and I think that's what it comes back to.
- You know, I had heroes in my life who people outside of my life have never heard of.
- You know, I think I still have a sense that no matter what you do, no matter what you achieve, no matter how much success you have, no matter how much money you have, relationships are important.
Editor's Note: This is an update from the original article.