Legends we lost in 2014: Benjamin Bradlee and Lorin Maazel

Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, pictured in 1973, oversaw reporting on the Watergate scandal.

Story highlights

  • Newspaper editor Ben Bradlee was a giant of journalism, a real lion, writes Amanpour
  • "He was mesmerizing in the sheer breadth of his knowledge and his lifetime experience"
  • Conductor Lorin Maazel brought hope and the sound of beautiful music to North Korea

In a series of articles, CNN journalists are sharing stories of deaths in 2014 that affected them personally. To share your story, please visit CNN iReport.

(CNN)Newspaper editor Benjamin C. Bradlee died in October, aged 93. He was a giant of journalism, a real lion.

In fact after Watergate and Woodward and Bernstein and the taking down of President Richard M. Nixon in the mid-1970s for corruption and subverting democracy, journalism schools in America were bursting at the seams with young would-be Woodward and Bernsteins.
Bradlee and his fearless reporters launched a thousand careers -- including mine. Ben was also a friend. I met him after his glory days as Executive Editor of the Washington Post; He in his Emeritus years and I, a galavanting foreign correspondent. I admired the heck out of him. He was mesmerizing in the sheer breadth of his knowledge and his lifetime experience. For all his achievements and accomplishments, read my friend Marilyn Berger's definitive obituary in the New York Times.
    Ben was also hilarious and courtly, ribald and bawdy, handsome and craggy and full of the best stories ever. At dinner, he could conjure up a whole spellbinding era of the history he had lived and covered -- before the main course was served -- and often in French!
    And that was part of his gravitational pull; Ben embodied a different era, when top-flight journalists were the friends and counselors of presidents, as he was to John F. Kennedy. And when need be, their adversary, as with the mounting Watergate revelations. Ben defined the times when a headline, a story, a byline in the Washington Post et al, could shift history.
    The truth is, his reporters would have followed him through rings of fire. I consider myself unbelievably lucky to have worked for two of the great revolutionaries of our business, Ted Turner who created CNN and changed the world with 24/7 global news, and Don Hewitt, the legendary TV innovator and creator of 60 Minutes. I wish I could have worked for Ben. But perhaps I was luckier, certainly I was enormously proud, to call him my friend.
    Lorin Maazel
    A little earlier this year, renowned conductor Lorin Maazel died, aged 84, after a long and distinguished career as Grand Maestro. While we weren't close friends, I think I can say we bonded through an extraordinary shared experience: The 2008 visit by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to Pyongyang, North Korea.
    In light of the U.S. government accusing North Korea of the massive hack-attack against Sony at the end of this year, it is extraordinary to look back and reflect on a different atmosphere that existed between the two countries for a brief moment in time.
    Along with a large delegation of international press, I was invited to travel with the New York Philharmonic on a cultural odyssey. Maestro Maazel was thrilled; just as ping pong diplomacy had opened the door to normalizing relations between the United States and communist China, he told me he hoped musical diplomacy could do the same with one of the last bastions of entrenched communist dictatorship.
    And so one freezing, sunny morning in February, a planeload of enthusiasts all landed in Pyongyang in a flourish the likes of which the government and the people had never seen.
    We watched as Maazel and his musicians prepped and rehearsed, gave masterclasses to some of North Korea's top musicians, and finally delivered a bravura performance on stage at the city's main concert hall.
    The audience was treated to all-American tunes by George Gershwin and the concert ended with one of Korea's best-loved folk songs, Arirang. North Korea's invited elite were on their feet with standing ovations.
    And for two countries still officially at war, since the Korean War ended only with an armistice, just imagine how it felt in that concert hall -- and for Koreans listening on radio and TV at home -- to hear both countries' national anthems played in public on stage for the first time.
    Remember this was during the Bush Administration -- George W. Bush had called North Korea part of the Axis of Evil, and yet change was in the air.
    Away from the concert hall, I was one of a small group of journalists taken to the Yongbyon nuclear plant, where then leader Kim Jong Il had started mothballing crucial parts and freezing the weapons program. A few months later I went back to witness North Korea blow up the plant's iconic cooling tower.
    It seemed Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic were on to something. But shortly thereafter Kim Jong Il fell ill and died, his son Kim Jong Un came to power with a ruthless streak, a penchant for testing his nuclear weapons, and apparently capable of massive cyber attacks on America's top companies.
    Lorin Maazel died without realizing this dream, but I am grateful to have been there for that brief moment in time when he brought hope and the sound of beautiful music to North Korea.