THE BLOG

Irony Alert: Tim Russert to Lecture on Ethics (Get Your Tickets Now!)

Our Russert Watch post about college phenom Luke Russert co-hosting an XM sports show with James Carville -- and our mockery of Papa Tim using his Meet the Press podium to oh-so-coyly flack for his boy's radio show -- hit a nerve.

Mickey Kaus has dubbed the affair Lukegate. Wonkette, FishBowlDC, and Rising Hegemon have taken their whacks. As have the Goldbergs, Lucianne and Jonah.

On the MSM front, the Washington Post scored a chat with Luke Russert, who said the show sprung from debates he had with Carville at Washington Wizards and Washington Nationals games. "People who sat around us found it interesting to listen to us -- by the end of the game it would get quite heated." Yep, nothing like having a pair of sports aficionados sounding off next you from tip-off to buzzer to up the enjoyment quotient at a sporting event.

For its story, the New York Times interviewed the other half of the new duo. "I'm a real horse degenerate," said Carville. Good to know.

This thing is turning into the most compelling father-son relationship featuring a kid named Luke since the Star Wars saga. I guess that would make Tim the Darth Vader of the analogy. Hey, if the black mask fits...

Now [via justoneminute] comes guffaw-inducing word that Russert, Sr. is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an "Ethics of the Media" conference hosted by Ripon College's Ethical Leadership Program.

Oh. My. God.

Inviting Tim Russert to keynote a conference on journalistic ethics is like having Jack Abramoff keynote a conference on lobbying reform, Jim Frey lecture on truth in advertising, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lead High Holy Days services at Temple Beth Israel.

Eager to learn more, I got hold of the press release for the event, to be held next Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 2-4 at Ripon College, located 80 miles northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

According to the release, the conference, "highlighted by Russert," is "an intensive, three-day program" "designed to investigate such topics as ethics in the media, the relationship between the media and the government... and whether the media is a business or truth provider to the public."

Wow. Where to begin?

"Ethics in the media"? Tim should have plenty to talk about on that one, starting with the ethics of using the most important Sunday morning talk show to shill for a new radio program without telling viewers that your son is the co-host. Then he can move on to the ethics of his acting like an impartial reporter on a bombshell story like Plamegate, when he is in fact a major player in it. Maybe it will lead to a spin-off panel on the journalistic value of showing disdain for your audience.

"The relationship between the media and the government"? Tim will have no problem with this one, either. Lots to go into regarding his "relationship" with Scooter Libby, especially why he fought so hard to avoid testifying about it in front of the Plamegate grand jury -- even after Libby had released him to do so. Remember, Russert's lawyers claimed that Russert's reticence was due to a fear of harming his relationships with other government sources.

"Whether the media is a business or truth provider to the public"? This part of the conference might go by a little quickly...although it could take a while for the laughter to subside. Anyone who has watched Meet the Press lately knows the answer to that one: providing the truth always takes a back seat to the business of Tim maintaining his cozy relationships with the powers that be.

Neither Ripon College nor Russert's office responded to inquiries about whether Russert would be paid for his appearance. But, according to the Washington Speakers Bureau, which exclusively handles Russert's speaking engagements, his standard speaking fee is $60,000 plus first class travel for two for west coast appearances, and $50,000 and first class travel for two for east coast locales -- although, they say, private planes are strongly preferred.

It might turn out to be an interesting trip for Russert. Check out this blisteringly good column in the school paper by Ripon senior Joe Fontaine, in which he nails Russert for his many journalistic sins, and challenges him to view his appearance at the campus as "an opportunity -- if not a responsibility -- for you to set the record straight on your involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case."

"How is your silence," Fontaine asks Russert, "reconcilable with the fundamental mission of the media -- arguably the mission underlying your justification for protecting your sources -- to provide the information they know to the public?... As much as your involvement in this case has exposed you to such questions, it has also provided you unique insights into the case and the ethical issues surrounding it. You have so far -- and for too long -- kept them to yourself. I hope you see fit to share them with us."

Next time I have to be away from the TV on a Sunday morning, I'm planning to ask Joe Fontaine to man the Russert Watch wheel.

The Ripon conference is open to the public and free of charge, so if you are planning to be in Wisconsin next week (or are just in the mood for a heaping dose of irony) you can call 1-877-231-0455 or email makif@ripon.edu for reservations or more information.