Tim Russert… In Memoriam

13 Jun

Seth: I was shocked to get an email today that Tim Russert, host of Meet The Press died today. He collapsed while recording voiceovers for Sunday’s episode of the show. At 58, Mr. Russert was a young guy, and to my knowledge there was no previous illness that predicted his death.

Immediately, I compared his death to the death of Peter Jennings in 2005. Shortly before his death, he announced he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Mr. Jennings anchored ABC World News from 1983 to 2005 and before that was a international correspondent for that network. Growing up, I can remember watching him on television every evening while my family ate dinner. My experience with Mr. Russert is different. In the latter years of high school and college when I began to develop an interest in the world and politics, Meet the Press was a show that I tried to catch every Sunday before church. I could always be sure that he would have all the latest news, plus items that had not yet been broken. I remember in 2006 when Bob Casey was running against Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Russert understood this was not a typical Senate race, and had them debate on his show. Casey went on to win the election by a large margin, the first Democrat to win a one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats since 1962.

Mr. Russert had a commanding presence, not because of his physical size, but because of the journalistic image he emitted. Opposed to a Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann or even Chris Matthews who at times all seem to be newsmakers with their overbearing personalities, with Mr. Russert, the news was always the focus. And with the absence of Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, Mr. Russert seemed to be one of the personalities primed to help fill that void. Like Peter Jennings, I trusted Mr. Russert to deliver the unbiased news. His death will certainly leave a void in journalism, one certainly not easily replaced in today’s dearth of true journalists.

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