Theodore H. White recorded life in America and abroad, from whistle stops to whistling bombs. The events he covered were important. But White's unique contribution was his knack of leading a reader to the heart of the matter.
"Teddy" White, who died Thursday at 71, forever altered political reporting with that style. He achieved what he did by hard work: filling notebooks on the scene, staying up late at night when a candidate might be ready to unwind and swap stories, interviewing anybody and everybody, but especially listening.
His book, "The Making of the President: 1960," like his other work on politics and his reporting on China, showed the marks of his craft. Simply reporting the public side of a campaign no longer was sufficient after White laid out anecdote after anecdote that not only illuminated candidates' natures and the political process but also illustrated the changing times.
In his later years, White worried about the influence he had in putting politicians' private lives under the microscope and about the influences his friendships had had on his work. But despite his unassuming manner, or perhaps because of it, there was no question that he captured the essence of the major events of his time. He not only saw change, he contributed to it.