Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

We lost one of the last great old news men this week, and well before his time.

Tim Russert has died at 58 years old, and the hole he leaves may be impossible to fill. In a world where "Fair and Balanced" is a tacit omission on one side of TV news and an advertising slogan on the other, Russert was a genuine journalist. I never knew what side of the political fence he sat on, and I never felt that he was pushing an agenda, unlike, oh, pretty much everyone else on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Russert didn't just keep equanimity, he insisted on it, going so far as to refuse to work on-air with Keith Olbermann.

But Russert's own words provide a better tribute than any of my own. In an interview for the New Yorker shortly before his death, Russert said, “What cable emphasizes, more and more, is opinion, or even advocacy. Whether it’s Bill O’Reilly or Keith Olbermann or Lou Dobbs, that’s what that particular platform or venue does. It’s not what I do. What I do is different. I try very, very hard not to come up and say to people, ‘This is what I believe,’ or ‘This is good,’ or ‘This is bad.’ But, rather, ‘This is what I’m learning in my reporting,’ or ‘This is what my analysis shows based on my reporting.’ And as long as I can do that I’m very, very comfortable. And nobody has asked me to do anything but that.”

All of us, journalists and actors and realtors and steelworkers, can learn from that.

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  • At 6/17/2008 8:59 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    A huge loss, indeed. It's one thing to know (fact, not speculation) that almost 90% of broadcast and print media employees are Democrat. It's something else altogether to wear their politics on the sleeves of their on-air and in-print reporting. Tim Russert could present fair and balanced for real, without pretense. When NBC throws left-wing idealogue Keith Olbermann at anchoring their election coverage, all semblance of impartiality in broadcasting is lost. Tim Russert knew better than to alienate half his audience. The fact that he worked for Daniel Patrick Monynihan mattered not one bit to me, the man is entitled like all Americans to his personal beliefs and his vote and his citizenship. But Tim Russert never, EVER made the mistake of introducing it into his broadcast journalism.

    On top of that truly impartial perspective he took, Tim Russert exuded a decency and humanity that went beyond the words he used to describe or question the political events he covered. There was a gentility about Tim Russert that is increasingly rare in American society, much less in American broadcast journalism.

    It's worth noting that Russert's death comes within a few weeks of another such legacy, Jim McKay. They covered different spectrums but had much in common. I'll miss them both greatly.

  • At 6/18/2008 8:20 AM , Anonymous Phil Hamm said...

    Olbermann's a smarmy tool. He doesn't even deserve to be mentioned int he same blog with Russert.

    RIP Tim, you'll be missed.

    The dichotomy (and problem) with journalism is that it is an inredibly important part of a free-speech democracy, yet the journalists are not elected. So the people have little control over how they can get their information.

  • At 6/18/2008 9:40 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Olbermann is an utter joke. Fox Sports fired him because he was nuts. Unfortunately, his ratings are very good.

    It's a strange dichotomy that the internet gives us many more options for how to get our information, but also opens the floodgates to wackjobs and liars to provide it with even less vetting than television and print media. For every Demand Debate there's a Loose Change or nine.

    I find that I increasingly want to get news and opinion from liberals who criticize Democrats (like Mother Jones) and conservatives who criticize Republicans (like Glenn Beck). That's as close to honesty and equanimity as I can find.


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