In reading about David Broder, the veteran political writer for The Washington Post who died March 9, I found some life lessons for student journalists … well, make that journalists of all ages.
1. Do your homework and do right by your sources.
Broder’s career illustrates that the two go hand in hand. Post columnist E.J. Dionne was among those who commented on Broder’s approach to his work.“It’s been said eloquently by so many others that he was a reporter’s reporter – and within that, a citizen’s reporter, a voter’s reporter. It wasn’t just that he knew every governor and every state party chair in the country – and some enormous proportion of county commissioners, state legislators and city council members, too.
“It was also that he felt compelled, constantly, to go door-to-door to talk to voters,” Dionne continued. “They were subjects for Broder, not objects. He wasn’t trolling for good quotes. He truly wanted to know what and how people thought and felt. He wanted to understand them.”
Jack Betts, associate editor of The Charlotte Observer, referenced Broder with the moniker reflected in the title of this blog post. Over the years, Betts “ran into Broder from time to time as he breezed through the state on the trail of one story or another, watched him question businessmen, college presidents and those who might know something he needed to know. His interviews always seemed more like conversations than interrogations.”
2. Own up to your mistakes.
“As a reporter, Mr. Broder admitted shortcomings on issues great and small,” the Post’s Adam Bernstein wrote. “He compiled for publication his ‘annual accounting of errors and misjudgments’ highlighing his bloopers in election coverage.”
3. Help your colleagues.
Dionne first witnessed Broder’s bigheartedness as a 23-year-old reporter in the runup to the 1976 New Hampshire primary.
“I was then working for The New York Times and found myself in a press room, during a debate as I recall. And here was Dave Broder, one of the most famous and accomplished political reporters in the United States, bounding in after doing some reporting – he was always reporting. He just handed his notes over to a younger reporter and said, ‘Here, you can use these.’ “