BERKELEY (CBS/AP) — Ben H. Bagdikian, a renowned journalist, newspaper executive, media critic and professor who helped publish the Pentagon Papers and for decades was a passionate voice for journalistic integrity, has died. He was 96.
Bagdikian died Friday morning at his home in Berkeley, said his wife, Marlene Griffith Bagdikian.
Bagdikian was born in Turkey to parents who fled to the United States to escape the Ottoman Empire massacre of Armenians.
His five-decade career in journalism was equally adventurous. In the 1950s he covered the civil rights struggle, including the Little Rock, Arkansas, school integration crisis, and rode with an Israeli tank crew during the Suez crisis.
In 1953, he and other reporters on the Providence Journal in Rhode Island shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of a bank robbery and police chase. He also held a Peabody Award for broadcast commentary.
In the 1970s, while serving as ombudsman for the Washington Post, he posed as a convicted murderer to get inside a Pennsylvania maximum-security prison for articles about problems and abuses in the prison system.
Bagdikian once said he had spent most of his career “exposing the neglected suffering of others.”
In the 1970s, he obtained the Pentagon Papers — a secret history of U.S. strategy and involvement in Vietnam — for the Washington Post from leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Published revelations in the Post and the New York Times helped bolster opposition to the Vietnam War.
In 1976 Bagdikian joined the journalism faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. He later became dean of the graduate school of journalism, retiring in 1990.
Bagdikian perhaps was best-known for his media commentary and criticism. In 1983, he published “The Media Monopoly,” which criticized the impact on journalism of mergers that were consolidating broadcast outlets and newspapers in the hands of giant corporations.
It went through numerous editions, including a 2004 update in which Bagdikian declared that a handful of corporations now had more control of communications “than was exercised by any despot or dictatorship in history.”
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