The world of political reporting lost one of the great practitioners of the craft with the passing Wednesday of veteran Washington Post reporter/columnist David Broder. And we are all poorer for it. David was a giant of our profession. We are unlikely to see his equal emerge from a digital news world where speed, conflict and hype, rather than detail, fairness, accuracy and thoughtful analysis, are the new coins of the realm.
David was one of those who believed in, and lived, the simple definition of the word “reporter.” – You go places other people don’t go, meet people other people don’t meet and come back and tell everyone what you saw and heard.
He wasn’t out to indoctrinate or proselytize his readers. He was out to provide them with solid and well-researched information with which they could make decisions for themselves. That information became more valuable because it was filtered through a mind that knew politics inside out. Moreover, he never was out to convince us that all politicians were bums. He knew them, hung around with them, ate dinner with them and basically liked them as a group. How else could he have done his job so well for so many years if he didn’t like politicians as a class and politics as an avocation?
Throughout his long and fabled career, David was a tireless reporter traveling the country and the world to interview leaders and make sense of what was happening. And one of the great things he did that most reporters don't do today is cover political campaigns by talking to real people - going from door-to-door in communities all across the country. You never heard David say the people were dumb. He respected them, listened to them and applied the information he gleaned from them to his reports.
To me, David was a role model, mentor and valued friend from our first meeting on the 1984 presidential campaign trail. As a rookie from USA Today going out on his first foray into presidential political coverage, I was intimidated to say the least, and quite scared. Here were some of the giants of the business at that time – Walter Mears, Johnny Apple, Jack Germond, Mary McGrory, Jules Whitcover, Jim Perry., Carl Leubsdorf, Hugh Sidey, Sam Donaldson, Judy Woodruff and David Broder! What was I doing here? But there was David, generously extending a helping hand and making me feel welcome. It triggered a friendship that lasted more than a quarter century. Once, one of my editors at USA Today called me "our David Broder." He could not have paid me a higher compliment.
Richard Benedetto is a retired USA Today White House correspondent and columnist. He now teaches politics and journalism at American and Georgetown universities.