March 9, 2011


David S. Broder: The best political reporter of his time (Robert G. Kaiser, March 10, 2011, Washington Post)

David S. Broder, who died Wednesday at 81, was the best-known and surely the best political reporter of his time. He was fair, thoughtful and astoundingly hardworking, and he earned the admiration of an extraordinary range of American politicians. His judgments could have great influence, as when he turned against Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigations in 1974. With Broder skeptical, Nixon's chances of survival seemed to shrink.

Broder first made a name for himself as a political reporter at the Washington Evening Star, a fine newspaper in its day. In 1965 he was lured to the New York Times but soon became exasperated with the office politics between the Times's Washington bureau and headquarters in New York. The Post's managing editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, who coveted Broder's help to help make a mediocre Washington Post into a great newspaper, promised him the moon. When Broder accepted the offer in August 1966, for the princely sum of $19,000 a year - the highest salary at The Post at the time - he was the first journalist to leave the Times for The Post.

From the moment he arrived, Broder was much more than a Post reporter. He was always an informal political editor, shaping the paper's coverage and making it better. In a business dominated by hard-driving egos, Broder was an anomaly: a Midwestern gentleman, gentle in manner, always eager to help fellow reporters and to preserve the reputation of his newspaper. His standards never slipped, save perhaps when yielding to his perennially unfulfilled dreams for his beloved Chicago Cubs.

Colleagues who worked with him share similar memories about his dogged approach to reporting and his generosity. He wanted us all to care about politics, and especially about the voters. He loved voters.

Interviewing them, Broder once said, invariably reminded him "that the American people don't always have all the information in their hands, but their judgment is just about always sharp. You'll find that they don't make a hell of a lot of mistakes." This was not a cynical reporter.

One of the sad things about our current press and politics is how little the practitioners seem to enjoy the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2011 11:21 AM
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