BLOOMINGTON — Icons are usually highly visible, often lean on their egos and love to be in the procession rather than sit on the curb and watch as life’s parade passes by.
Not David Broder.
That’s what you always DON’T hear about him.
A journalistic icon of a passing era, a literal legend still writing in the twilight of a 60-year career, he was always on point and moderate in a sobering, quiet, exceptionally truthful way.
In a time now of boisterous, free-wheeling journalism, of screaming guest panelists and voyeuristic media follies like TMZ, Gawker and Drudge Report, he remained mild-mannered, calm, in the back of the room, armed only with a brain and a notebook.
For Broder, it began at this newspaper, back in the 1950s, reportedly earning him $65 a week — before taxes.
His son was born at Brokaw Hospital (today’s Advocate BroMenn Medical Center).
He and wife, Ann, lived near Franklin Park.
By the 1960s, he moved on, first to Congressional Quarterly and then The Washington Post, where his weekly column became a bible for every president from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama.
But, even if he was a newspaper superstar, he seemed to never forget his start.
Over his 60 years as a front-line-but-in-the-back-row journalist, he’d occasionally be seen, every few years, at Lucca Grill downtown.
As they will tell you, he didn’t come with bravado.
Instead, he simply asked for a table, the Baldini special and an iced tea with a lemon slice.
When then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan visited Bloomington-Normal in 1980 to be grand marshal of the Illinois State University homecoming parade, suddenly out of the media pool popped Broder, not to get closer to Reagan but instead to quickly stride to the steps near Hovey Hall.
“He came right over to us, just to say hello, as if the years had never passed,” remembers Rich Godfrey, then an ISU media relations head, mayor of Normal and alumnus of this newspaper. Godfrey says he worked one summer side by side with Broder, driving from Minonk to DeLand to visit The Pantagraph’s “state reporters,” who at that time usually were older women who were either farmer’s wives or the town gadflies.
“Dave was genuinely nice, quiet, patient,” says Godfrey, “a very thoughtful person.”
Broder died in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, at age 81.
Sadly, an era went with him.