Losing Tim Russert wasn't quite like losing a family member, more like losing a relative -- maybe a cousin or an uncle. I was surprised at how much of the coverage of his death that I watched and at how much I cared about him.
When he made his debut on Meet The Press in the early '90s I probably agreed with Russert's own assessment: here was a guy with a face made for radio. Additionally, I'm always suspicious of any newsman's ability to be objective when he has worked so recently for a politician of any party as Russert had for Moynihan and Cuomo.
But over time I came to trust Tim Russert. I even got less and less annoyed at his weird, awkward and totally unprofessional interjections of comments about the Buffalo Bills or his son Luke at the end of his broadcasts. It was in those moments that he revealed himself to be both a TV amateur, (could you imagine Edward R. Murrow giving a shout out to his family or favorite football team?) and a regular guy-so excited to have the bully pulpit of his own TV show, that he couldn't resist giving props to his peeps.
The key word that described Russert was trust. Though he was a Democrat, I trusted him to be just as tough on Democratic guests as Republicans. And I always appreciated the fact that he could zing from the right or the left, depending on the guest.
It was bad enough to have to deal with Russert's death. Now I have to deal with Tom Brokaw's resurrection. I don't mean to be rude to Mr. Brokaw, but I think he was in a groove that worked for both him and us, a groove that found him largely in retirement and off the public stage, popping up every two years or so to help with election coverage, but otherwise, doing the slow fade.
Whatever political bias Mr. Russert may have harbored, he hid it well. I can't say the same for Mr. Brokaw who is, in my book, about as unbiased as Tony Snow was on Fox.
I realize the seat must be filled by someone, but I'd much prefer Brian Williams or Chris Matthews in the Russert chair. I don't watch Williams much, but he seems to be in the Russert tradition of trying to set aside personal biases, and just reporting the news. As for Matthews, he's so upfront about his biases and doesn't pretend ala Cronkite, Brokaw and Rather to be neutral and that makes him fun to watch in my book. Plus, I don't think I've ever seen a guy have as much fun on a TV show as Chris Matthews on Hardball. You can just bet that he's a guy who wakes up in the morning and can't wait for his show to begin and can't believe he gets to do what he does.
Please NBC, give it to one of these guys, and let Brokaw resume his status as elder statesmen and a living reminder to us all of a generation of newsmen who seemed to take on the values of the big cities they moved to instead of the small towns they were reared in, seemed to think that they were better and smarter than their viewers and thought they had us fooled about who they really were.
Tim Russert was none of those things and that's why there were lots of us who never knew him, but felt like we did. He was living proof that with hard work, humility, remembering where you came from and a commitment to the relentless pursuit of the truth, no matter who the guest, one could reach greatness.
He will be missed.
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