I have nothing against Tim Russert. He hosted two decent programs, Meet the Press and the less-watched Tim Russert, and ably helmed NBC News’ Washington bureau. According to his colleagues and competitors, he was a contentious journalist and a fine leader. He was said by all to be a good husband, father, and son.
So Russert’s death at 58 is a sad occasion. Yet is it of such importance and momentum that his network, the other networks, and newspapers should continue to salute, remember, and otherwise memorialize him?
Russert’s own networks, NBC and MSNBC, have bathed him in appreciation. On Friday, MSNBC broke in with coverage announcing the death and started collecting reactions. NBC Nightly News mourned his passing. Dateline NBC was given over to Russert’s memory, as was MSNBC’s Hardball. The fallen newsman’s Saturday show, Tim Russert, memorialized him, as did the Saturday edition of Today, which fielded the reminiscences of Bob Schieffer, George Stephanopoulos, and Tom Brokaw, who appeared at almost every juncture to talk about his friend. Sunday’s Today reprised the coverage. The Chris Matthews Show devoted itself to Russert’s memory, and the contestantsâ€šÃ„Ã®I mean, guestsâ€šÃ„Ã®on a special edition of Meet the Press competed to see who could loft the highest praise for the show’s departed host. (See this Meet the Press reel for a few examples.)
As if all the NBC News airtime isn’t enough, MSNBC plans to broadcast a private memorial service for Russert from the Kennedy Center on June 18 at 4 p.m.
What has possessed NBC News to televise a never-ending video wake? Almost nothing aired contained much in the way of news. After reporting his passing and a postmortem by his physician, nearly every minute of NBC and MSNBC coverage tried to convey the loss felt by his peersâ€šÃ„Ã®David S. Broder, Andrea Mitchell, Al Hunt, Mike Barnicle, Al Roker, Brian Williams, Dennis Murphy, Barbara Walters, Bob Woodward, Gwen Ifill, Sally Quinn (“I feel almost like we did when somebodyâ€šÃ„Ã®when Jack Kennedy or even Katharine Graham died”), Chuck Todd, Wolf Blitzer, Kelly O’Donnell, Maria Shriver, and others. They loved him. They admired him. He was their mentor. He raised the bar for all journalists. He was thoughtful. He was kind. Of the highest integrity. Generous. Loyal. And so on. Just because it’s true doesn’t make it news.
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Jack Shafer – Slate