Ben BagdikianTuesday, May 4, 2021
Ben-hur Haig Bagdikian (January 30, 1920 – March 11, 2016) was an Armenian-American journalist, news media critic and commentator, and university professor.
An Armenian Genocide survivor, Bagdikian moved to the United States as an infant and began a journalism career after serving in World War II. He worked as a local reporter, investigative journalist and foreign correspondent for The Providence Journal. During his time there, he won a Peabody Award and a Pulitzer Prize. In 1971, he received parts of the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg and successfully persuaded The Washington Post to publish them despite objections and threats from the Richard Nixon administration. Bagdikian later taught at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and served as its dean from 1985 to 1988.
Bagdikian was a noted critic of the news media. His 1983 book The Media Monopoly, warning about the growing concentration of corporate ownership of news organizations, went through several editions and influenced, among others, Noam Chomsky. Bagdikian has been hailed for his ethical standards and has been described by Robert W. McChesney as one of the finest journalists of the 20th century.
Ben-Hur Haig Bagdikian,born in Marash, Ottoman Empire, on January 30, 1920, was the fifth and youngest child of Aram Toros "Theodore" Bagdikian (1882−1957) and Dudeh "Daisy" Uvezian (1886−1923). He had four sisters. His mother's family was well-off, while his father came from a peasant family. He did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. The family was mostly based in Tarsus, where his father taught physics and chemistry at St. Paul's College in Tarsus, run by Boston Congregationalists. His family knew English well. His father also spoke Armenian, Turkish, Arabic, and learned the Biblical languages.
His family left Marash on February 9, 1920, just ten days after Ben was born. They left during the Armenian Genocide, as Turkish forces reached the city, while the French retreated. While escaping persecution, Bagdikian was dropped in the snow in the mountains while the family was climbing. Only an infant, he was thought to be dead. He was picked up when he began to cry. They arrived, first, in Boston and subsequently settled in Stoneham, Massachusetts. His father was a pastor at several Armenian churches in the Boston area (in Watertown, Cambridge) and Worcester. He had taken courses at the Harvard Divinity School and had been ordained. His mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis almost immediately after arrival in Boston and died three years later, after spending some time hospitalized in sanatoriums.
Bagdikian was known throughout his life as Ben, though his baptismal name was Ben-Hur, after the Christian-themed historical novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Bagdikian grew up during the Great Depression, which, according to Robert D. McFadden, enforced a "passion for social justice that shaped his reporting." He described himself as an "Armenian overlaid by, of all things, the culture of New England Yankee."