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“Presidents come and go on the Washington Post’s front page. All political columnists—even David Broder—will retire in time.”
Back in January, I wrote those words as part of a lede for a story about Macy’s advertisements in the Post. I’m truly not in the habit of quoting myself, but I couldn’t help but recall the line after reading some astonishing news yesterday.
David Broder, Post writer since 1966, is taking the newspaper’s buyout offer.
This is not retirement because he’ll still be a contributor. But, it feels momentous. I grew up with stacks of the Post lying all over my house. It took my family a long time to commit to tossing a newspaper. So, I saw the Broder byline for years. However, I didn’t quite grasp the man’s history with the Post until relatively recently.
Then, around 2003 or 2004, I read “Boys on the Bus”—-doesn’t every reporter?—-Timothy Crouse‘s book about journalists covering the 1972 presidential campaign. The book was great. But there was one truly, truly remarkable thing about it: Close to 30 years after the book’s publication, most of the main characters—-R.W. “Johnny” Apple, Robert Novak, Haynes Johnson, David Broder, Hunter S. Thompson and Jules Witcover—-still did, for the most part, the same jobs for the same publications.
Circa 1972, Broder is a campaign journalist god: “The high priest of political journalism, the most powerful and respected man in the trade was David Broder…” Crouse wrote. “If he were to quit tomorrow and begin publishing a mimeographed tip sheet in his basement, Broder would still probably wield the kind of influence that can change campaigns in their course and other reporters in their opinions.”
Now, flash forward to 2008, and Broder’s still writing about politics, filing columns and even recording videos, “new media style.”
As for the other ‘Boys on the Bus’ bunch, well, things have changed. Back in 2003, Hunter S. Thompson was still a contributor to Rolling Stone. Two years later, he took his own life. R.W. Apple wrote for the New York Times for 43 years, but passed away in 2006. The Baltimore Sun killed Jules Witcover’s regular column in 2005, “after cutting his salary by more than two-thirds and publishing him less often,” according to Howard Kurtz.
Robert Novak is still working, as a certain former CIA operative knows all too well. And I can’t get Haynes Johnson‘s story straight, though it sounds like he’s kept quite busy.
But, surely, there’s no one quite as devoted to his craft as the “high priest of political journalism.”