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6/13/2008
TIM RUSSERT - A LION’S ROAR STILLED

Watching the cable nets talk about the death of Tim Russert at age 58 - and they are all on the story - you are struck by the sheer number of journalists and on air personalities whose professional lives had been touched by this man.

Tom Brokaw put it well with his typical understatement:

He was “one of the premier political journalists and analysts of his time,” Tom Brokaw, the former longtime anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” said in announcing Russert’s death. “This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice.”

In addition to his on-air duties, Russert was a Vice President of NBC News - a position in which he fought almost daily battles with the corporation over what to cover as news. He was a Bureau Chief in Washington as well which made him something of a rennaisance man in the news business handling executive, administrative, and talent duties with a practiced ease.

But Russert will be known for his combative yet polite interview techniques that had the effect of breaking down a target into a quivering hunk of jello while boring in and, with bulldog tenacity, not letting go until a particular question was answered. He would ask the same question a half dozen times until he was satisfied that he had at least a partial answer to his question.

The list of honors is impressive:

Russert’s March 2000 interview of Sen. John McCain shared the 2001 Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence in Television Journalism. He was also the recipient of the John Peter Zenger Award, the American Legion Journalism Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Journalism Award, the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism, the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Communication and the Catholic Academy for Communication’s Gabriel Award. He was a member of the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

I really feel like we are losing one of the last of a dying breed with Russert. Only in their dreams can an Olbermann or Matthews or O’Reily or Cooper be the kind of relentless searcher for truth as Russert clearly was. Despite the fact that his background was in politics rather than journalism, it seems he took to journalism like a duck takes to water.

Some may find bias in the way he interviewed conservatives compared to his interviews with liberals. But I didn’t see it. His job was to ask questions and get answers. And few in the business were so relentless in pursuit of answers be they Democrats or Republicans. There was no such thing as a softball interview where Russert was concerned.

According to people who knew him, he was extremely well informed, spending hours every morning scanning the wires and news reports so that he was up to speed with what was going on. Speaking from experience, I can tell you it is no easy task. I might spend 3-4 hours before sitting down to write anything reading MSM coverage as well as blogs. Russert spent that amount of time and more just so that he could do his job.

A life cut short - a well lived life. We mourn the passing of someone and will miss the spice he brought to political journalism.

By: Rick Moran at 4:31 pm
6 Responses to “TIM RUSSERT - A LION’S ROAR STILLED”
  1. 1
    michael reynolds Said:
    4:42 pm 

    Nice tribute, Rick. I happened to load up MSNBC.com and saw the news. Shocking. It bothered me more than it should, I guess. Maybe because (like you, I seem to recall) 58 is way too close to my own age. He seemed like too much of a force of nature to die.

    Russert to Saint Peter: “Here’s what you said in AD 1, let’s just put it up there. Your own words, sir.”

  2. 2
    preciseTruth Trackbacked With:
    4:48 pm 

    Tim Russert RIP…

    Tim Russert passes while preparing final voiceovers for weekend edition of MTP.

    This was quite a shocker to learn. He’d just published an article this AM about need of media to be careful with fact checking when covering the campaign.

  3. 3
    Michael B. Said:
    4:58 pm 

    I clicked on Drudge mid-afternoon, and was shocked to hear of his death. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. He was a great journalist, and I will miss him.

  4. 4
    Robert P Said:
    6:59 pm 

    I think he was more a giant than a lion.
    Lions make a lot of noise but don’t do much harm unless you are a potential meal.
    Tim did not make a lot of noise but could quickly make a meal of a mealy mouthed response.

    We have all lost a friend.

  5. 5
    Karen Said:
    10:01 pm 

    I heard someone say on tv this evening that it was Russett’s legal training that kept him so fair in interviews, despite his beginnings in Democrat politics.

    He’ll be missed, that’s a fact.

  6. 6
    nancy tennant Said:
    8:26 pm 

    IN GOD’S TIMING ALL THINGS HAPPEN - NOW TIM CAN LOOK OVER US AND PERHAPS
    MOVE ALL THE PLAYERS FROM ABOVE…

    HE MADE EVERYONE FEEL LIKE THEY WERE HIS ONLY FRIEND…..

    HOW BLESSED WE ALL WERE…..REST IN PEACE AND MAY PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON YOU…..PRAYERS FOR YOUR FAMILY….

    NLTENNANT.

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