I first met David Broder when he stopped by the newsroom of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor.

He was a regular during the New Hampshire presidential primary. 

As publisher of the capital-city newspaper of the state, and a lifelong journalist, I knew him as a legend. A power reporter who had covered every presidential election for the Washington Post since 1968.

Broder won a Pulitzer, journalism’s highest honor, in 1973 for his reporting on the Watergate scandal. His citation was for explaining the importance of the Watergate fallout in a clear, compelling way.

He died last week at 81 from diabetes.

We seem a long way from presidential politics in Eastern Oregon. Pendleton got a touch of it when President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton stopped by during the last state primary.

New Hampshire is the epicenter. 

The next selection process is already under way. A broad stream of Republican hopefuls have begun flowing into the Granite State, attending Lincoln Day dinners and courting local voters and potential supporters.

David Broder, I am sure, had already been there, too. 

But this reporter did it differently than most who work for the Washington Post, The New York Times or other national newspapers.

Broder believed in shoe leather. He liked getting out in small-town newsrooms and on the streets of villages across the state.

We were lucky at the Monitor to have him stop by frequently for chats and “brown bag” sessions with our reporting staff.

Our editors were always very interested in getting the latest wisdom from the Post’s enormously expensive and accurate research and polling data on how New Hampshire voters were leaning.

Broder, on the other hand, was even more probing in asking the rather young Monitor staff — What they had heard? What they thought? Who they felt was winning?

He did the same with local precinct workers. Broder knew everyone of political importance in New Hampshire. But he felt the coffee stop at the local Elks Club where one of the candidates was speaking more interesting and of greater value.

You see, this giant of a journalist believed that the average voter was pretty smart. He felt they listened to the candidates. 

Maybe they did not know as much as the D.C. insiders, but they were plenty with it and usually right. 

This is the wisdom he passed on to me and to others at my newspaper. 

Listen. Ask questions. Observe. Don’t always go with the easy answers or conventional wisdom. Be fair in your writing. Don’t, above all, get caught up in the “spin” put out by the candidates and parties. 

The eulogies in the Post after his death came from both parties and all of his peers in the news business.

Former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee called Broder “the best political correspondent in America. David knew politics from the back room up — the mechanics of politics, the county and state chairmen — whereas most Washington reporters knew it at the Washington level.”

Maralee Schwartz, a longtime Post political editor, recalled Broader had “made me knock on doors” to be in touch with ordinary people, not just “our Washington contacts.”

Broder, she said, “made me a better journalist.”

“Issues may be abstractions, but when you ask people what concerns them, they tell you — in clear and often passionate voices,” Broder has written.

He gave the same advice to us in New Hampshire.

I find myself reflecting on the journalism wisdom of Broder because he was so right about ordinary people.

We know that, too, in our small towns and cities of Eastern Oregon. 

We try to practice what he stood for in our newsrooms in Pendleton and Hermiston. 

Our job is to ask the questions people want answered, even if those questions are uncomfortable — then report fairly and explain what it all means.

Broder was a master of his craft. We will miss his columns in our newspapers. But his example of how to be a journalist will live on as we move into the next presidential primary season.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.