Dan Rather came of age wanting to be the next Edward R. Murrow, the cerebral and stylish godfather of broadcast journalism. The late Peter Jennings seemed to have been born in a trench coat in an exotic locale, and he carried the genes of his father, an elegant anchorman on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In my remote corner of South Dakota, our family got its first television set just as Huntley and Brinkley were beginning their meteoric rise. As an impressionable teenager, I was drawn to the cool, conversational style of Brinkley, a master of the narrative form and the ironic take on the day's news.
Tim Russert was in the next generation of broadcast journalists, and his role model was none of the above. As he often told me, Tim was a John Madden man. Madden, the large, rumpled former coach of the Oakland Raiders who became the N.F.L.'s premier television analyst, is the guy at the end of the bar whom the patrons turn to when they need some working-class wisdom.
Tim filled the same role on "Meet the Press." Like Madden, he was determined -- no, he was fiercely committed -- not to let his celebrity and fat paycheck alter his South Buffalo DNA. I think he believed even a spritz of hairspray would deaden his brain cells (and who's to say he was wrong?).
Tim and Madden shared not just an XXL off-the-rack wardrobe but also a passion about their areas of expertise -- politics and football -- and their insights came from the playing field, not from the back of the bus or the heated comfort of the press box. Madden was first a player and then a coach and then an analyst. Tim was first a foot soldier with a law degree for Daniel Patrick Moynihan and then the senator's chief of staff and, later, a principal adviser to Gov. Mario Cuomo.