Merrill Mourns Colleague David Broder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist

Merrill Mourns Colleague David Broder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist


Haynes Johnson, Merrill’s Knight Chair, and Dean Kevin Klose were long-time friends and colleagues of David Broder. A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and reporter and former Merrill professor, Broder passed away Wednesday at the age of 81.

Klose and Johnson, who worked with Broder at the Washington Post, shared their memories Wednesday of a man President Obama called “the most respected and incisive political commentator of his generation.”

Please share your memories of Broder by leaving a comment at the end of this post.

From Knight Chair Haynes Johnson:

I was told a week ago that my oldest friend and most trusted colleague, Dave Broder, was being treated in a hospice for the final days of his life. I was sworn to secrecy, and although I didn’t tell anyone else, I couldn’t keep thoughts of Dave out of my mind. In fact, I kept thinking of him for days–and nights, literally–until the final news came today shortly after 1 p.m.

Dave was simply the best political journalist of his time, the only one of the army of political writers who came closest in the respect of his colleagues and political peers across all political aisles to Walter Lippmann, who had been the best of earlier generations. But unlike Lippmann, who was sort of a philosopher king of politics, Dave was a daily reporter. And he gloried in that. No one worked harder or more diligently in trying to assess the political trends. No one was more successful in capturing what the politicians were doing, and what the people were thinking of those public figures they had elected.

Most important, Dave Broder was a true believer in the practice of journalism–daily journalism, not ivory tower journalism, nor pompous punditry journalism, but journalism that matters, shoe leather journalism, digging for facts journalism and then presenting them as fairly and capably as possible. For more than half a century, Dave and I worked together, collaborating on countless stories across the country, including one book that took us four years of research to finish. In all that time, Dave never lost his enthusiasm for the role of daily journalism.

Speaking personally, Dave had another trait that endeared him to me, and so many others privileged to work with him: He was not a phony, not a hotshot on the make. He had no interest in the social scene that so sullies much of our political-journalistic environment. He simply believed in going out there on the trail once more and trying to get the story the only way that really works: by interviewing, carefully and thoughtfully, those involved in all sides of the political equation, and then writing it to share with his readers.

For those of us at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Dave’s loss is especially hard. He was our colleague, and valued professor. Students fortunate enough to sit in his seminars will profit for the rest of their careers from his knowledge, and example. That’s just one of his many legacies to the world, and the practice of journalism. I’d like to say his loss is irreplaceable, but as I write those words I hear my old friend saying, “Come off it, Haynesie. No one’s irreplaceable, and certainly not me.”

–Haynes Johnson, March 9, 2011

From Dean Kevin Klose:

The late David S. Broder loved all things political, but the 1983 Chicago mayoral election donnybrook was a standout, even for him.

Chicago that cold spring — “Beirut by the Lake,” headlined The Wall Street Journal – held a very warm place in David’s heart. He was a local – born in Chicago Heights, a University of Chicago graduate. He also was a quintessential Midwesterner: unfailingly polite, self-effacing, open-minded, friendly — and an indomitable competitor for his newspaper.

He headed a tag-team of Washington Post reporters, who flew in and out of Chicago throughout the  three-way Democratic primary: the late Boss Dick Daley’s son Richie, against erratic incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne; and U.S. Rep. Harold Washington, a Southside African-American machine pol, bidding to become the Windy City’s first black mayor.

We mapped the precincts, split up the wards, chased aldermen, button-holed committeemen. Quotes and data for a national scale narrative with rich local detail. David reveled in every interview, an unflagging, unflappable, wry companion who snared and shared sources, matched notes, pounded the deadlines and… the next day, back to the joy of the tussle.

Harold Washington won, and so did we who had covered the story with David S. Broder. He never stopped reporting, even during his recent years of seminars and lectures here at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism:  David S. Broder – a great journalist, and a wonderful friend.

— Kevin Klose, March 9, 2011

Other Coverage
David Broder dies; Pulitzer-winning Washington Post political columnist – The Washington Post
David Broder: 1929-2011 – The Washington Post
Washington Post columnist David Broder dies at 81 – Associated Press
Statement by President Obama on the passing of David Broder — The White House

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One Comment

  1. Susan Fink
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    David Broder was the Rolls Royce of journalists and when he spoke people sat up and listened, He was mild mannered but underneath that calm exterior was a relentless driving force to get the news and get it right! He will be missed for his in-depth reporting and fairness. I salute his style and it will be a very long time before we see anyone like him again. Journalism changed during his tenure but he never gave up his principled approach.

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