David Broder: Icon of journalistic integrity, fairness, tenacity

David Broder covered national politics for the Washington Post for 45 years. The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, who died Wednesday, set an example of fairness and tenacity.

By , Washington Bureau Chief

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    Washington Post political columnist David Broder moderates a discussion between Sen. Orrin Hatch, R- Utah and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. in March 2007. Broder passed away on Wednesday.
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David Broder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist who died Wednesday, set an example of decency, fairness, and tenacity in the 45 years he covered national politics for the Washington Post.

Through a column syndicated to 300 newspapers, 400 appearances on NBC’s "Meet The Press,” and the force of his presence at events, Mr. Broder was an outsize influence on national political coverage.

Broder was “a man with unparalleled political instincts. He was a gentleman, a man of character. We all loved David,” said former Monitor political reporter Godfrey "Budge” Sperling Jr., who started the Monitor’s newsmaker breakfasts and was Broder’s friend for more than 40 years.

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Post Publisher Katherine Weymouth, in a statement, said, “David’s integrity, fairness, wisdom, and curiosity served as a model for us all.”

While journalism today may be lighter on shoe-leather reporting and heavier on attitude than in the past, Broder blazed a different path. As the Post’s obituary for him noted, for decades Broder traveled more than 100,000 miles annually to interview voters for stories heavy on fact and insight and devoid of bias. His drive to travel and interact with voters continued through the 2008 campaign, despite mobility difficulties and other health issues.

“His greatest admiration and respect were always for the voters themselves, who would answer a knock on their door, let him into their homes, and share their observations on the issues of the day,” his wife of 60 years and his four sons said in a statement issued after his death.

He covered every national political convention since 1956 and wrote for Congressional Quarterly and The New York Times, before joining the Post’s staff in 1966. Broder was wooed by the Post's legendary editor, Benjamin Bradley, winning a Pulitzer in 1973 for explaining the meaning of the Watergate scandal.

Through the years, Broder was a regular attendee of the Monitor-sponsored breakfasts for reporters. Indeed, on June 22, 1966, he joined Mr. Sperling, the event's founder, for the second Monitor breakfast – 11 reporters gathered to interview Idaho Gov. Robert Smylie. In later years, despite his unofficial status as dean of the Washington press corps, Broder would often wait until the end of the gathering to ask his penetrating question.

While intensely competitive, Broder was also a loyal friend to many in the press corps. He was an active member in the Gridiron Club of Washington, a group of Washington bureau chiefs, columnists, and correspondents, and served as its president. In a typical instance of Broder’s generous spirit, in 2005 he helped organize – along with columnist Robert Novak and Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau Chief Andrew Glass – a gala 90th birthday party for Sperling, who by then had retired from the Monitor.

Broder’s longtime Post colleague, Dan Balz, traveled with him extensively and collaborated with him on many stories. Writing on the Post’s website, Mr. Balz said, “It is hard to imagine that there will ever be another political reporter like him – or a friend and colleague for whom so many have such respect and affection.”

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