By Robert D. McFadden
BERKELEY, Calif. (New York Times) — Ben H. Bagdikian, a journalist and news media critic who became a celebrated voice of conscience for his profession, calling for tougher standards of integrity and public service in an era of changing tastes and technology, died on Friday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 96.
His wife, Marlene Griffith Bagdikian, confirmed his death.
Over five decades, Mr. Bagdikian was a national and foreign correspondent for newspapers and magazines; a reporter, editor and ombudsman for The Washington Post; the author of eight books; and for many years a professor and the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
Born into an Armenian family that fled from genocide in Ottoman Turkey, he grew up in Depression America with a passion for social justice that shaped his reporting. He became an undercover inmate to expose inhumane prison conditions in Pennsylvania, rode with an Israeli tank crew to write about the 1956 Suez Crisis, and lived with oppressed families in the South to cover the civil rights struggle in the 1960s.
He was the Washington Post’s conduit for the Pentagon Papers, the secret Defense Department study of decades of American duplicity in Indochina that was disclosed by the military analyst Daniel Ellsberg and published by The Post and The New York Times in 1971 in defiance of the Nixon administration’s attempts at suppression as the nation debated its deepening involvement in the war in Vietnam.