Covering Politics the David Broder Way (by Richard L. Berke)
From the 3/10/11 POLITICO Playbook, by Mike Allen, one of several tributes from fellow news reporters and editors to David Broder. Good guide for being a political reporter, hard worker, and mensch:
Richard L. Berke, National Editor and former National Political Correspondent, The New York Times: It was hard not to feel like an imposter covering politics alongside David, let alone trying to compete with him. He was not a blusterer or know-it-all like so many other big-name political scribes. He did know it all, but he was confident (and smart) enough that he had no need to lecture his increasingly fresh-faced interview subjects. When he appeared on TV, it was not to pontificate but to pass along what he had learned. One could never fathom a “Do you know who I am?” moment for David Broder. It was never about him. David was respectful of his fellow reporters and editors as well as the politicians he covered. While he was by no means a pushover, David was not jazzed by the quick hit or scoop as much as finding opportunities to draw insights by listening to lawmakers and voters. Among the enduring lessons David left for so many of us who aspired to his unflagging standards of covering politics:
—Get out of Washington. And when you do, don’t pass up that last event of the day so you can retreat to the bar to tell war stories. Remember: Politicians are often more candid when they’re tired at the end of the day.
—Talk to Governors—and mayors. At those NGA meetings, David would set up schedules of interminable interviews with lawmakers. He cared about governing, and knew that you can’t be an effective political reporter without understanding policy and governing beyond Washington.
—Work the Hill. That said, David knew that successful political reporters knew the Hill intimately, and devoted as much time working the halls of Congress as talking to consultants and pollsters.
—Talk to voters. Hour after hour, David would knock on doors, interviewing voters. That gave him deep authority and insights that you can’t get by interviewing political strategists.
—Don’t ever become cynical. Don’t ever stop reporting. For some reason, I have a memory of David at a coffee shop one late night in Branson, Missouri, many campaigns ago. He had no interest in joining the group heading out for a night on the town. All he wanted was a slice of pie and, of course, to talk politics.