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Posted at 2:52 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Dave Broder: A reporter at heart

By Ruth Marcus

When Fred Hiatt, the editor of the Washington Post editorial page, offered me the chance to write a weekly column, the first person I turned to for advice was Dave Broder.

I headed to Dave's glassed-in cubicle in the midst of the newsroom. Back in the days when I used to lead tours of The Post for my kids' pre-school classes, this site was always the biggest hit with the moms -- not because Broder was such a journalistic mega-star, which he was, but because the office was so astonishingly, dangerously piled with books and papers it cried out for "clean-up time."

As always, sitting amid the chaos, Dave had a minute. As always, Dave demurred at the thought that he had any wisdom to offer. As always, he did. "I can't tell you how to write a column but I can tell you what works for me," he said. First, he said, you can only have one big thought per 750-word column. Second, he said, he couldn't simply sit in his office and conjure up Big Thoughts. He had to go out and report.

That was classic Broder, indeed a reporter at heart.

Before I moved back to the solitude of the editorial page staff, I spent years ensconced at a desk right outside Broder's office. When he was there instead of out on a reporting trip, he was a whirlwind of reporting activity. "This is Dave Broder," he would say -- and, after a pause, you would hear, "Oh, yes, senator," "Thanks for getting back to me, governor." The clutter of Broder's office was matched by the orderliness of his mind. He returned all the phone calls, cranked out the columns, knocked on the doors -- all with an energy that would have been astonishing in a 20-year-old.

To be out on the campaign trail with Dave was to receive a lesson in modesty. He was a celebrity; people would line up to shake his hand and take his picture. And his response was always gracious and self-effacing: Where are you from? Tell me something about yourself.

To sit at the table in the Post cafeteria with Dave was to receive a different lesson in modesty. What do you think is going to happen about X, someone would ask. In an era of instant pontificators on every subject imaginable, Broder was willing to say, "I have no clue." When Dave did allow as to how he had a clue, you quickly learned that it paid to listen.

In the age of the Internet, Broder became a favorite target for left-wing bloggers who disdained his willingness to see both sides' point of view, his aversion to invective and his instinct for moderation. "High Broderism" was their term of derision. Over the years, a few snarky bloggers applied it to me, intending insult. It could not have been a higher, if undeserved, compliment.

By Ruth Marcus  | March 9, 2011; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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A dark day in journalism.

Benjamin Franklin once said that he wished he could come live one year of every hundred to watch progress.

I wish that all the great Washington Post writers could come back for one edition per year. That would be a wonderful read. Greenfield, et al.

Posted by: avraamjack | March 9, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Reporter? Where? Please....there are none.

Who has "Journalistic Integrity"? They're called "repeaters", not reporters.

USA media is mostly media hacks and lackeys for the corporate world. It's a pay to play world and the rich dominate the universe of what is true for their own gain.

I love how the so called reporters pat themselves on the back for "seeing both sides", even if the truth gets lost.

As long as "both sides" are told the reporter isn't labeled, but does get paid!

Dollar dollar bill yall!

Posted by: getcentered | March 9, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

It's sad when any one passes away, i feel for his family. David Broder was a beltway insider propaganda disseminator. He would not have known journalism if it hit him in the face, knocked him down and kicked him. He propagated beltway elitism and the idea that those who hold power are above the law. In a time when America needs real journalist, he did not deliver.

Posted by: hardman16 | March 9, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I am not surprised that someone who would call Dave Broder a "reporter at heart" would misrepresent and oversimplify the devastating criticisms that have been leveled at him, nor that she would fail to see any of his manifest flaws. Journalism, such as it exists in Washington, is richer for his passing.

Posted by: jessega3 | March 9, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Compared to the Kraut, that the Washpost uses as its conservative republican nit wit, David Broder was a peach and second best to Walter when it came to telling like it is. After all he had to make a living and these conservative republican menace, has for too long controlled the power and wealth in this marred nation of ours.

Posted by: winemaster2 | March 9, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Compared to the Kraut, that the Washpost uses as its conservative republican nit wit, David Broder was a peach and second best to Walter when it came to telling like it is. After all he had to make a living and these conservative republican menace, has for too long controlled the power and wealth in this marred nation of ours.

Posted by: winemaster2 | March 9, 2011 5:21 PM
It is truly pathetic, when a person uses a very sad and sacred moment such as someone's death, to make comparisons with someone they hate and promote his/her political view. The liberal class and savoir vivre shine again. As I said, pathetic!

R.I.P. Mr. Broder!

Posted by: jmk55 | March 9, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Over the last 25 years of reading the Post, I never read and interesting or insightful column by David Broder.

I did read many columns that repeated cliches and did harm to the average American.

Death does not excuse mediocrity.

Posted by: dmblum | March 9, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

He was a good guy, you knew immediately, it was obvious. It's tough. Do your best and trhat ain't easy , baby. You'll see.

Posted by: paukune | March 9, 2011 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Despite the self-serving encomiums by his ilk, Broder was not a good guy. He was, like everyone else in his vile species, particularly at the Post, an arrogant, vindictive, manipulative, dishonest, destructive maggot, who promoted and thrived on rot.

There is a direct line between the Post's coup d'etat against Nixon and the current right-wing ascendancy that has brought ruin on this nation. The obscene irony is that these malignant creatures, who call themselves journalists, imagine themselves to be virtuous.

Posted by: lbjack | March 10, 2011 12:10 AM | Report abuse

David Broder was a great reporter, and person. The yahoo's commenting to the contrary on this blog are dirt, deserving contempt for their ignorance.

Posted by: billbane1 | March 10, 2011 12:49 AM | Report abuse

Many years ago Broder made my my personal "complete waste of time" mental list. If taking dictation from Beltway insiders is "reporting", then yeah, OK, I guess you can call Broder a "reporter". That seems to pass for useful work at the WaPo clown car. But talk about damning with faint praise!

When I think of the completely predictable fluff that Broder specialized in, I guess the real news here isn't that he's dead, it's that he was ever alive.

Posted by: SGlover910 | March 10, 2011 2:35 AM | Report abuse

He was a leftist idealogue, he was not a journalist. Journolist, maybe.

Posted by: wewinyoulose1 | March 10, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse

I suppose these derogatory comments exemplify freedom of speech. However, how sad it is that our discourse has come to this. Most of these comments are not fit to be in the pages of the Washington Post. The man has died. He did very good work for a very long time. Disagreement is good. Disparagement is bad. RIP David Broder.

Posted by: Kansas28 | March 10, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

How perfectly disgusting that people are willing to malign a man recently deceased. Like driving, I suppose anonymous internet commenting brings out the very worst in people.

To those of you making nasty comments, I hope nobody ever displays this shameful disrespect towards you upon your passing (or upon your loved ones). Yet if this type of behavior represents how you interact with people in the real world, I fear it might come to pass.

If not, follow the good old golden rule--if you have nothing nice to say, hold your tongue.

Posted by: lde2c | March 10, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

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