Ben Bradlee's protégés reflect on legendary Post editor

Journalists Woodward and Bernstein on Ben Bra... 06:00

Legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee is being remembered as a driven newsman, who transformed the Post and helped bring down a president charged with corruption.

He died of natural causes Tuesday, at the age of 93.

Under Bradlee's leadership, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein exposed the scandal that led to Nixon's resignation.

Legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee ... 01:15

"He was the guy who would sit down with us and say, 'Do you really have this story? What did people say?'" Woodward said on "CBS This Morning." "'Go find the people who handled the money -- the bookkeeper, the treasurer of the Nixon reelection campaign.'"

Woodward said he would guide them step-by-step until the story was worth pursuing.

"He was the one who would say 'OK it's ready, let's go with this story,'" Woodward said.

Bradlee wanted to be first with a story, but he never wanted to be wrong.

"We would give him the story, and it'd be a hell of a story, Woodward and I would think, and he'd say, 'uh-uh boys. You ain't got it yet. Go out there and get another source.'" Woodward recalled.

They were, after all, only 28 and 29 years old at the time.

"I think sometimes we felt like we were 11 and 12," Woodward said.

Ben Bradlee on "60 Minutes"

Nevertheless, the trio still produced one of the most famous, game-changing pieces is journalism history.

"It was the granularity of the reporting that he made sure made it into the paper," Woodward said. "And sometimes we did make mistakes. You know, he was really almost kind about the times we made mistakes and said 'OK, let's move on.'"

For Bernstein and Woodward, Bradlee was not only a trusted colleague and adviser, but also a dear friend.

"Last night after he passed away, Carl and I went over to Sally Quinn, his now-widow's house and we sat there with the family members for hours telling stories about his energy, the way he impacted everyone," Woodward said.

In this case, Sally was more than just the woman behind the man. Bernstein said Bradlee's life changed completely when they married.

"Bradlee had an incredible elan," Bernstein recalled. "He had it before Sally, but after Sally, it took on a new polish, a new joie de vivre that was visible and palpable."

And that was Bradlee, he said -- a man who lived a wonderful life.

"You saw the wonderful command, the use of language, the way he carried himself, his love for the profession and his understanding that it's all about the story and he wanted to take this institution, which when he took over was kind of moribund, and he turned it into a great, great institution," Bernstein said.