THE COLLEAGUELou Cannon: David never cared if his name was on a story at all. Sometimes he’d provide the most information and somebody else’s name would be on the story.
Dan Balz: If you did a story that was halfway good, you got a “That was a terrific story” compliment from David. He encouraged you to follow your own instincts. I always looked to David as the gold standard of how to do the job, and it was mostly from watching him.
Milton Coleman, Washington Post reporter and editor: During the 1984 campaign, David and I were somewhere in New Hampshire before the primary, writing a story. David said, “You know, we need more voices for this piece, and there’s a shopping center not far away and we can probably get some voices there.”
So I started to get up from the typewriter. David said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m going to go to the shopping center.” He said, “No, you stay here and write the story and I will go down to the shopping center and I will feed you quotes.”
For me, that was an extraordinary moment because this was my first campaign and this was David Broder. And here I was writing the story. As a result of that, I developed what I called the “reverse Broder rule,” which was that whenever I met someone on the campaign plane or bus, the more of an asshole they were, the less they knew.
Walter Mears: I once told him he was too nice to be in the business.
Colette Rhoney: On key days as deadline was approaching, Herblock would go back to David’s office and show him cartoons he was considering. Meg Greenfield would stroll in, Mary McGrory would drop in, every once in a while Kay Graham would drop in. There’d be a parade to David’s office.
Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist, on Broder’s cluttered office: He had a couple of feet carved out so he could get into it and sit in his chair. I imagine you could do an archaeological dig in there and get back to the Johnson administration. Every now and then, there’d be literally an avalanche. He’d be in there and you’d be worried: Was he okay?
Colette Rhoney: I used to clean from the bottom up so he wouldn’t notice. But he would know. I figured if I can’t deal with this fire hazard of an office, I’m gonna take on his briefcase. He must have been carrying it for 30 years. It barely held together. He finally gets a briefcase that’s not a disgrace and he sticks this stuffed tiger tail on it that somebody gave him. The man did what he wanted to do.
Next: Getting It Right