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.