David S. Broder, RIP
March 9, 2011 11:59 AM   Subscribe

David S. Broder: Reporter.

David S. Broder has died at age 81, from complications of diabetes. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and columnist for the Washington Post for more than 40 years (he'd covered every Presidential election since 1956!) and a frequent guest on Meet The Press, roles that allowed him to chronicle the last half-century of American politics. His informal nickname was "dean of the Washington press corps."

Mr. Broder was also a Professor of Journalism at the Phillip Merril College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He had published seven books, three of which are available through Amazon.
"David S. Broder: Reporter.

Of all the epitaphs that might fit him - journalist, columnist, commentator, author, teacher, student of politics - we think our friend and colleague Dave Broder, who died Wednesday at age 81, would likely be most pleased with the one-word description we offer above. Mr. Broder was a columnist for many years, but he started out as a reporter and remained one for a lifetime. Like most reporters, he clearly learned , from the time of his first job on the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph, a basic lesson of the business: that the story you expect to write when you set out on an assignment never quite matches up with the one you find when you get there. Or, as he put it in one of his books, sometimes "the moment comes when the disappointed reporter has to tell an editor, 'It doesn't check out.'"

The Washington Post has extensive coverage:

* David Broder's remarkable life and career
* Photo Gallery
* Statements from the Broder family and the White House.
* Lives Remembered: Remembering David Broder
* David S. Broder: The best political reporter of his time
* On David Broder
* Column Archive (Their selection of his best work is here and an additional archive of his work from the Seattle Times can be found here.) His final WashPost column.
* Video Archive (including "The Best Election I Ever Covered")

Here's his 400th appearance on Meet the Press.

* Covering politics with David Broder (by former WashPost White House correspondent Lou Cannon"):
When [my eldest son] Carl was at the Baltimore Sun, a young reporter complained that one of the prima donnas in our business had treated him shoddily. Carl told him to forget it and to think instead of the example set by Broder. "Don't ever think it's necessary to be puffed up," Carl advised the young reporter. When I was a teenager, he said, David Broder never came to our house and didn't ask me what I was doing or how I felt. He is the greatest of them all, and he never had a swelled head."
And, from colleague Joel Achenbach:
"A number of ideologues, particularly in Blogworld, hated him for his political leanings, which were very close to being perfectly vertical. But that was enraging: He anchored himself in the political center, and religiously espoused good government, compromise solutions and bipartisanship. Naturally, the true believers viewed him as a dangerous moderate, a dinosaur, a centrist crank."
Outside the Beltway:
"His name became something of an epithet on the Left, with “Broderism” used to describe a neutral and bland form of commentary that refused to call out truly bad conduct in the name of bipartisan objectivity. But Broder was simply a holdover from an era where journalists–even columnists–thought they were in the business of covering the news rather than making policy."

Linda Perlstein has posted a short remembrance, calling Mr. Broder, "one of the kindest colleagues I ever had."

Mr. Broder, previously on Metafilter.
posted by zarq (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2011

"But Broder was simply a holdover from an era where journalists–even columnists–thought they were in the business of covering the news rather than making policy."

i.e., Broder indulged in the vaseline-coated-lens fiction that covering the news has no effect on the subject of the news, that false equivalence was sufficient to establish objectivity, and that beltway media capture didn't exist.
posted by fatbird at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2011 [7 favorites]

posted by General Malaise at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2011

posted by brundlefly at 12:18 PM on March 9, 2011


I was working on an obit post, but yours is more thorough.
posted by KGMoney at 12:20 PM on March 9, 2011

posted by everichon at 12:24 PM on March 9, 2011

I enjoyed listening to his overview of political news every Friday on The Bob Edwards show on XM, even though I didn't always agree with him... particularly his infatuation with Sarah Palin. I was sad to hear he died.
posted by crunchland at 12:37 PM on March 9, 2011

For the last few years I've thought of David Broder as one of those political columnists who believes the cliché that the only real Americans worth interviewing are to be found in small-town diners.

Still, RIP.
posted by Tin Man at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2011

Broder was simply a holdover from an era where journalists–even columnists–thought they were in the business of covering the news rather than making policy

Calling out truly bad conduct is the essence of covering the news.

It has nothing to do with making policy -- except, of course, by allowing some who do make policy the comfort of knowing their truly bad conduct won't be called out, or at worst will be forced into some phony-baloney "both side do it" narrative.
posted by Gelatin at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2011

"I have a friend -- in California, naturally -- who does not read a newspaper. He does not take any magazines. He does not own a television set. And he says he does not turn on the radio except to get the weather forecast when the evidence before his eyes is ambiguous.

"If you ask him how he keeps up with what is going on, he says conversations tell him all he needs to know .... By recreating the conditions of an earlier era, when rural and village folk depended on conversations at church or tavern or marketplace for all they knew, he has built his own cocoon. He lives a full, happy life, and as far as I can judge from our occasional visits, and has time to work in his garden, take long walks, read good novels, and sit and reflect -- time that we news junkies squander on our addiction.

"I am one of those. I wake up to an all-news public radio station, watch a morning news show on television at breakfast, read anywhere from four to six papers in the course of the day, and usually watch more than one television show in the evening. I subscribe to and buy more magazines than I can read .... while my addiction is real, I think I am closer to the norm than my California friend."

Broder write this in 1987, well before the age of the information glut and the 24/7 news cycle. But I think it's still revealing. His yearning for the Thornton Wilder days of "rural and village folk" getting all they needed to know from "conversations at church or tavern" built for him his own kind of Beltway cocoon. I salute the man and his reporting prowess and his contributions to journalism, and I'm sorry he's passed on, but I think that he got left behind quite a while back, notwithstanding his emeritus status.

I'd love to take long walks and putter in a garden and read Tolstoy and sit and reflect too, but those days are vanished except for the affluent few who don't have to work for a living and can afford not to consume news in the only way that makes sense for most of us these days -- usually sitting on a train, on a jet, on a bus, or in a car, or standing in line, flicking the glowing screen of a mobile device.
posted by blucevalo at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

atrios on broder:
We normally think of "High Broderism" as the worship of bipartisanship for its own sake, combined with a fake "pox on both their houses" attitude. But in reality this is just the cover Broder uses for his real agenda, the defense of what he perceives to be "the establishment" at all costs. The establishment is the permanent ruling class of Washington, our betters who know better. It is their rough agenda which is sold as "centrism" even when it has no actual relationship with the political center in a meaningful way. Democracy's messy, in Broder's world, and passionate voters are problematic. It is up to the Wise Old Men of Washington to implement the agenda, and the job of the voters to bless them for it. When the establishment fails, the most important issue is not their failure, but that the voters might begin to lose faith in and deference for their betters. Thus, people must always be allowed to save face, no matter what their transgressions, as long as they're a part of his permanent floating tea party.

While this basic attitude isn't unique to Broder, his apparent lack of interest in the actual details of policy makes him a more absurd figure than some. For him it's not about results, but about the right people being in the right places. It is terribly elitist in all the wrong ways. Arguments can be made for certain types of elitism - you do want a brain surgeon conducting brain surgery - but Broder's elites are simply aristocrats. It's their town.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:37 PM on March 9, 2011 [11 favorites]

posted by jadepearl at 2:22 PM on March 9, 2011

posted by UseyurBrain at 3:24 PM on March 9, 2011

"It may seem perverse to suggest that [...] President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case." -David Broder, Feb 2007
posted by gngstrMNKY at 5:50 PM on March 9, 2011

A mouthpiece for corportate, establishment, and yes, Republican interests. Nothing more.

Condolences to his family, but he was a blight on journalism and more importantly, objectivity. His entire raison d'etre was to mainstream right-wing viewpoints as "centrist" and (cough) "serious."
posted by bardic at 5:55 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

David Broder was a giant of a political analyst and a even gianter man. Sure, he came from a time that has long since passed, but he rocked in his day.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:44 PM on March 9, 2011

I was standing at the Hyatt in DC back in, say 95, back when cell phones were still the size of a Prius, waiting for a pay phone. Working as a freelance guy, waiting to call an editor from a convention, and this little guy is standing there just muttering away with his hand over the phone.

Totally weird. Obvious it wasn;t a real conversation, he just kept talking without a break, not like anyone on the other side was interjecting.

"C'mon already!" I'm thinking. "What the fuck is this guy doing? Trying to find a tour bus or arranging a hooker?"

Really started pissing me off, so I finally tapped the guy on the shoulder, he glances at me, I make the universal tapping my watch, and then the thumb and pinkie phone thing, he just holds up his finger to indicate "just a sec"

So I am all huffy now thinking how dare this old fuck interrupt what is obviously my very very important joiurnalistic work?

He finally takes his hand away from the phone and I hear him sort of finishing up, saying "OK? You got that? NO! I said ""SAID, not SAYS!" OK read that last part back to me?"

He turns around and his name tag said "D. Broder."

Appeared to me that he had just read an entire column, probably 800-900 wds, into a pay phone, no notebook, not a scrap of paper anywhere to be seen, just right off the top of his head.

He hung up the phone, clapped me on the shoulder, said "Sorry friend" and walked away.

That guy had more class in his toenail clippings than most people elected to national office in the last 50 years had in their whole career.

Thanks David. I do believe this is the first time I have ever done this on MeFi, but

posted by timsteil at 5:38 AM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

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