Bob Brewin, 1944-2014

Bob Brewin served in the Marines in Vietnam.

Bob Brewin served in the Marines in Vietnam.

The passing of a legendary reporter and a beloved colleague.

Dedicated readers of What’s Brewin’ may wonder why it has been quiet of late. Here’s the story.

The greatest professional pleasure any editor can have is to work with an exceptionally talented reporter. I’ve worked with many excellent reporters, but none more passionate, fearless or committed than Bob Brewin, the originator and driving force behind What’s Brewin.’ To borrow a marketing tagline from a defense contractor, Bob never forgot who he was working for. That is to say he never was happier than when he was taking on powerful interests on behalf of the powerless.  

Bob was a brilliant reporter with a gift for slogging through jargon-laden government documents to find hidden gems—the stuff lesser reporters lack the patience for, but which was Bob’s stock in trade. FedBizOps never had a more committed reader. Bob could ferret out waste and inefficiency in the defense world more quickly and effectively than a team of inspectors general. He was not impressed with rank—a legacy of his days as a Marine infantryman in Vietnam—but if you earned his respect, you could find no better friend. 

I first began working with Bob in the fall of 2010, three years after he joined Nextgov to help launch the publication. He had just begun reporting what would become his Broken Warrior series of stories on Nextgov and in Government Executive magazine, chronicling the health consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for troops and their families. The series earned a Jesse H. Neal Award, the country’s premier business journalism prize, in 2011.

Bob’s passion was personal as well as professional. From participating in an annual commemoration of the Bataan Death March to challenging Memorial Day traditions, he was bold and committed in his life and his work. After Bob’s service in Vietnam as a radioman, he returned to write about the war and its aftermath in his book “Vietnam on Trial: Westmoreland v. CBS.” He also confronted the toll that war took on his own life and spent his last decades helping others deal with similar experiences.  

Bob was a character like none other. He once talked his way into a job at Reuters despite not having a college degree. My guess is they decided it would be easier to hire him than to endure his efforts to wear them down. Bob was by no means perfect. His spellcheck-evading misspellings were legendary in the newsroom, and if a story involved numbers you could count on him to mangle the math. But he always got the story straight. Bob had grit.  

Bob lost his fight with cancer last week. For a man who fought and won so many battles in his life, that hardly seems possible.

Semper Fi and rest in peace, Marine.