Washington Post political columnist David Broder has died at 81. According to the Post, he passed away Wednesday in Arlington due to complications from diabetes. A legend of the newsroom, Broder won a Pulitzer-Prize in 1973 for his coverage of the Watergate scandal. Over the years his political insights and Beltway acumen have earned him the title of dean of the Washington press corps.
In a heartfelt obituary, the Post's associate editor Robert Kaiser calls Broder "the best political reporter of his time. He was fair, thoughtful and astoundingly hardworking, and he earned the admiration of an extraordinary range of American politicians."
Before covering politics at the Post for four decades, Broder worked at the Washington Evening Star and the New York Times. In 1966 he left the Times for the Post and stayed put. For most of his career, Broder was purely a political reporter focusing on campaigns, elections and ballot initiatives. Later on he began writing weekly columns.
Unlike many opinion columnists, Broder was praised for his shoe-leather reporting and on-the-ground coverage. "Broder was on the campaign trail getting scoops and stories until the end," tweeted Slate reporter David Weigel. "Never rested on his laurels."
"Broder was famous for relying on old-fashioned legwork to gauge the political pulse of voters," writes NPR's Bill Chappell. "He organized teams of people who went out and knocked on doors in swing states to ask voters which issues they cared about the most."
In his later years, as the rise of blogs and cable TV warped the Washington media environment, Broder's work remained the same, notes The New York Times' Michael Shear.
"Broder hardly altered his style, making few appearances among the angry talking heads or embracing the Web," Shear writes. "Instead, Mr. Broder stuck to what he knew: writing news stories for the newspaper and his column."
While his even-handed tone infuriated some of his younger peers, others attacked him for being the "embodiment of conventional wisdom" notes Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist. Still, to many, his focus on larger political trends and measured analysis was welcome.
"I can't think of any columnist of a major newspaper who took academic political scientists more seriously than David Broder," said Ross. "He could traffic in day-to-day gossip with the best of them, but his eyes were set a little higher, to look at broader trends."