Saturday, June 14, 2008
Tim Russert's sudden death could not come at a worse time for journalism. In an era of increased partisanship and mud slinging, Tim Russert was a rarity. Sure every network has a Sunday morning show with a somewhat even handed moderator, but Russert was by far the best at it. Widely regarded as the toughest interviewer in Washington, he had a way of being tough without raising his voice or talking over his guest.
He was a newsman not a commentator. Today's media organizations seem to think Americans need talking heads on TV to formulate opinions for them. Meet The Press under Russert sought the facts through probing questions and the audience made their own conclusions.
Watching the coverage on TV today I began to wonder how this was affecting other journalists--the Bill O'Reillys, Keith Olbermanns, Sean Hannitys, Chris Matthews'... If one of these other host and/or commentators were to tragically die tomorrow as Russert did, how would they be remembered?
In the daily and weekly ratings wars and non-stop gauntlet of political wedge issues, it seems to be forgotten that life is short and none of that stuff really matters. The respect of your peers and your audience is more important then winning the 25-50 demo. The honest airing of the facts and civilized discourse is more important then making the red team or the blue team look bad.
I hope this death will not be in vain. I hope other journalists will take a look at the career and legacy of Tim Russert and realize many of them are doing a disservice to the craft of journalism and more importantly this country.