Bryan obtained his bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1937, and received his Doctor of Political Sciences degree from the University of Vienna in 1940.
Bryan worked as a correspondent for the International News Service, London Times, and New York Times in Austria and southeast Europe from 1938 to 1940, covering the rise of Adolf Hitler. He edited the magazine Foreign Commerce Weekly from 1940 to 1942, and then entered federal government service in 1942, working for the next decade as an economist and political adviser for the Department of Commerce, Office of War Information, and other agencies.
After three years in private industry, Bryan joined the University of Maryland as a professor of journalism in 1955, serving until 1976, when he retired.
His first book, A Survey of the American Press, was published in 1943 by the U.S. Office of War Information.
His works include The Foreign Press, with John Merrill and Marvin Alisky, published in 1964 by Louisiana State University Press (revised in 1970); Negro Journalism Before Emancipation, issued in 1970 by the Association for Education in Journalism; and a posthumous work, The De Brienne-Bryan Family, transcribed by Anna R. Bryan, his daughter, and published in 1991 by the Bryan family.
He contributed numerous articles and essays to magazines, newspapers and scholarly journals.
Bryan belonged to the White House Correspondents Association.