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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tim Russert, the Gold Standard of Journalism

With the sudden passing of Tim Russert I find myself in the same company of many of the friends he worked so closely with. His presence on our nations televisions was that of the friendly and jovial uncle that just loved politics simply because it was a competition of the best available candidates for our times. His style and grace when confronting political figures called them to task where others would have given them a pass. Honestly, I feel like my brother or my closest Uncle has died. His passing is very personal to me and I’m just a political blogger.

Tim brought to journalism what no other person could in today’s media hubbub, the truth. Politicians love to hide behind the real story and yet he alone called them to task and dared to ask the questions that nobody else could find the guts to even think of asking. His secret was a relentless pursuit of the truth in politics and for that I thank him from the bottom of my heart. If you were a guest of Tim Russert on Meet the Press then there would be no softball pitches coming across the plate. That kind of journalism he left to the people dreaming of being a real political reporter that found themselves swooned by the politician.

Tim Russert was not about fluff pieces and feeling the love to anyone that dared to sit in the hot seat of Meet the Press. What perplexes the media institution that he built is the fact that anyone wanting an interview with him had better be ready to face all the facts no matter how ugly they were. And yet, politician after politician would seek him out knowing the gauntlet they would have to face. Facts do not lie, Tim never hid those facts from his guest and in the long run the truth or an inkling of it was established during his broadcast of Meet the Press.

One of the things I admired most about Tim Russert was his devotion to friends in the business. He never forgot his friends during the bad times they each faced. From Mike Barnicle during his alleged plagiarism debacle at the Boston Globe to Don Imus and his Rutgers girls basketball disgrace. While the rest of the press, politicians, and people that were supposed to befriends were running fast and furious, Tim stood by his friends, backed them and supported them. In the media business friends are for the most part there only as long as you shine, Tim was there during the dark days lighting a candle of light for a friend who thought the world had forsaken them. That was just who he was. His friends were for life, his love of people unquestionable, and his deeds quietly done because he was at the heart of his being just a man that loved people.

On many occasions while listening to Imus in the Morning over the years Tim would be on and dog the I Man on how his little boy was doing in between talking about political issues of the day. Tim was never impressed with the fact that Imus in the Morning was listened to by millions of people, that wasn’t the important part of the friendship. The Imus family little boy that looked up to his mom and dad was the key figure in the relationship. In every friendship that Tim had, the kids were the ones that made many of them call him simply Uncle Tim.

When he wrote of his hard working father in Big Russ and Me, it reminded me of the many trials my own family had faced over the years. No family is perfect and here was the moderator of one of the longest running news broadcast in our nations history telling the story of his dad. It inspired millions in more ways than he will ever know. Evidenced by the follow up book from many of the people that read about his life with Big Russ. In my mind, Tim gave the fathers of this nation and many others something to live up to with actions as a dad rather than just words. The old saying of anyone can be a father but it takes hard work and faith to be a dad was the Russert credo.

It’s a dark day for political reporting just knowing that the extreme grasp that Tim Russert had on politics is lost. There is not in my mind anyone that can fill his shoes and do what he did with the shear simplicity that he was able to do so effortlessly. His broadcast seemed almost like watching a figure skating routine and the scores garnished depended on how the person in the hot seat replied. The more squirming the higher the score.

My personal condolences to the Russert family and to all of his many friends including his viewers on many of the broadcasts he participated in. His quick wit and sharp mind will be missed.

God bless and keep you close Tim Russert. We can only hope to carry on with the same integrity that you brought to journalism.


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