Somehow, it seemed appropriate that news of the death of David Broder broke halfway into Wednesday’s White House briefing by press secretary Jay Carney.

One by one, you could see veteran reporters stare at their BlackBerrys in disbelief, then turn to share the news with their neighbor. We sat through the rest of the briefing stunned, like members of a team who just lost their leader — which, of course, we had.

David was not only the dean of the Washington Press Corps, he was, right up until his death at the age of 81, the best and hardest-working reporter in Washington. In fact, I last saw him at the White House, just outside the Briefing Room, a couple of weeks ago, on his way in to interview President Obama.

My first encounter with the already legendary Washington Post reporter was many years ago, during Jerry Brown’s first presidential campaign. I saw him often, later, in Sacramento. And I was honored — and nervous! — when Broder himself showed up to cover a news conference I held in Washington as Democratic state chairman of California.

Both as a reporter and a columnist, Broder didn’t just sit in Washington and read wire reports. He spent weeks on the road every year: conducting interviews, visiting campaign headquarters, testing the public mood, and always digging, digging, digging for new leads and insights. That’s what kept his writing so fresh and so unique.

David Broder knew every corner of America. He was as comfortable in Des Moines, or Austin, or Seattle, or Manchester as he was in Washington. He had the biggest Rolodex, and talked to more people, than anybody else in politics. And, most of all, in this era of too much “gotcha journalism,” he remained an absolute, old-fashioned gentleman. He taught us all how to conduct ourselves as journalists and how to do our jobs.

David Broder was our leader. We are all proud to have been on his team.

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