Former journalism dean Ben Bagdikian dies at 96

Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, has died. (Photo by Richard Barnes)

Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, has died. (Photo by Richard Barnes)

Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and award-winning journalist, author and media critic, died today at his home in Berkeley. He was 96.

Bagdikian joined UC Berkeley’s journalism faculty in 1976 and was named dean in 1985. His seminal 1983 book, The Media Monopoly, predicted the consolidation of American journalism by major conglomerates. He retired from UC Berkeley in 1990.

“He became part of that first wave of pioneering professionals who established the School as one of the premier journalism educators in the world,” said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, in a statement posted today on the school’s website. “Ben was a major figure in 20th century U.S. journalism, and we’re all his beneficiaries.”

Born in Turkey to Armenian parents in 1920, Bagdikian started out in newspaper journalism as a cub reporter at the Springfield Morning Union in Massachusetts. After serving in World War II, he returned to reporting, covering major national events including the Little Rock Nine school integration story. As assistant managing editor at The Washington Post in 1970, he helped break the Pentagon papers story.

“Ben was sweet, smart and an incredibly solid reporter, editor and leader, who was a creator of modern investigative reporting,” said UC Berkeley journalism professor Lowell Bergman. “Most of all when you were confronted by a publisher who was scared, or had turned hostile, or a powerful institution that wanted to squash you, Ben would volunteer without hesitation to stand shoulder to shoulder with you. His example lives on.”

Bagdikian’s many accolades include a Peabody Award, a Pulitzer Prize (which he shared with a team at the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin), a Guggenheim Fellowship and a James Madison Award.

He is survived by his wife, Marlene Griffith Bagdikian, and his son, Eric (Frederick, Jr.) Bagdikian.

Services are pending. For information visit the School of Journalism website.

Related information: Obituary in The New York Times