News & Politics

Ben Bradlee’s Funeral Will Be Televised

This town.

Photograph by Flickr user Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin.

If Mark Leibovich is planning a sequel to This Town, he can start reporting it Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral at the funeral for Ben Bradlee. The former Washington Post editor’s sendoff was already planned to be open to the public, but now comes word that everyone who can’t fit inside the 2,500-capacity cathedral can watch the proceedings on C-SPAN, the public affairs channel announced Monday.

Televised funerals are typically reserved for heads of state and government, members of royal families, popes, and Michael Jackson, whose 2009 memorial service was watched by an estimated global audience of nearly 3 billion. C-SPAN might not have that kind of reach, but as the official channel for navel-gazing wonkery, it is the perfect broadcaster for Bradlee’s funeral.

C-SPAN’s immobile cameras and dulcet voiceover announcer will likely capture a scene Wednesday that recalls the opening pages of This Town, when 1,500 politicians and media dignitaries packed the Kennedy Center in June 2008 to say farewell to Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert. (“Tim Russert is dead. But the room was alive,” Leibovich wrote.)

Since Bradlee’s death last Tuesday, his former underlings—along with plenty of journalists who never worked for the man—have fawned over the passing of one the industry’s more accomplished professionals. And the fact that Bradlee’s funeral is getting TV coverage should settle objections aired by Post media critic Paul Farhi when Russert died. “I don’t quite get all the coverage,” Farhi wrote. “Let’s control now for TV stardom and ask a question: Would the death of any of the 10 most famous/accomplished/important PRINT journalists rate a fraction of the same coverage? Not even close.”

Most casual lists of the ten most famous, accomplished, or important print journalists would include Bradlee, and between the volume of post-mortems already written and a televised funeral on the way, it would seem Farhi’s misgivings have been satisfied. This Town 2 will have a heck of an opener.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.