Remembering Dean Broder: Shoe-Leather Lessons from a Legend

Mar 9, 2011 3:45pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

The tidy, quiet man in the press filing center at the Massachusetts Democratic State Convention in 2002 stood out. Legends don’t use filing centers.

Actually, they don’t attend state party conventions, either – certainly not ones that don’t nominate a candidate, or matter much at all in the national scheme of politics.

But there was David Broder, universally known as dean of the Washington press corps, the legendarily hard-working, compassionate, meticulous political reporter, pecking out a piece for The Washington Post, on a summer Saturday in Worcester, Mass.

I introduced myself to a giant who was also a gentleman.

He had read my stories in The Boston Globe. I blushed. I had read about him in “The Boys on the Bus,” the seminal book about American political reporting, published before I was born.

Broder wanted my take on the candidates – was big labor a factor? where were the Cambridge liberals going? who might cut a deal?

But he didn’t linger – he shuffled off with a notebook to talk to delegates about the relative merits of Shannon O’Brien and Tom Birmingham.

It was a lesson to a young reporter: No matter the size of your byline, there’s no substitute for real reporting. I remembered an anecdote from “Boys on the Bus” – that Broder would seem offended when a campaign operative served up a scoop in too tidy a fashion, because he preferred figuring things out on his own.

Broder was back in Massachusetts a few months later for a general election debate. (He was tracking maybe a dozen state level campaigns like this one for the Post, and this race featured an up-and-coming Republican named Mitt Romney.)

I said hello, and he was courteous as ever. He asked to meet a state senator who was working the room before the debate, and I was glad to oblige.

But of course, Broder needed no introduction. The state senator gushed about meeting Broder, recalling his work in the US Senate decades earlier, and an old boss who just “adores” Broder.

This time, Broder blushed. Then he went back to work. He had a debate to cover.


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