There may be people in journalism who will be missed more than David Broder, the great political writer for the Washington Post who died today at 81. But off the top of my head I can’t think of any.
Broder was a lovely man and a gentleman (a word that rarely applies to newspapermen). He was a painstaking reporter and, simultaneously in recent years, a columnist, and he did both exceedingly well. He was breathtakingly thorough, wrote with unusual clarity, and won the respect of nearly everyone he dealt with, including me. I never failed to read his reported pieces or his column and always learned from them.
When I was a young reporter for the Washington Star – the Post’s chief competitor in Washington at the time – I was assigned to cover the White House after Gerald Ford was sworn in on August 9, 1974. One of the first reporters I met in the pressroom was Broder, who filled in occasionally for the beat reporter. He was already a leading light of Washington journalism, but he treated me kindly and as an equal, commented on my stories, and didn’t act like a frenzied reporter with no interest beyond the story he was pursuing. He was unique.
Yes, I know conservatives were sometimes critical of Broder and mocked him as the “dean of the Washington press corps,” a title Broder never claimed and probably was embarrassed by. But most of them didn’t know him.
If there was ever a journalist who treated conservatives with respect, who took them seriously, and who was never a participant in the herd journalism so prevalent in Washington, it was Broder. No doubt he didn’t agree with conservatives. But he treated them fairly while the herd types didn’t. There’s a lot to be said for that.