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Let Tim Russert RIP…please

Posted on | June 18, 2008 | 8 Comments

They came not to bury Tim Russert, but to belabor him. The coverage of this broadcaster’s death is amazing and appalling, and, were he alive, Russert himself would be chagrined. Russert undoubtedly was a wonderful guy. He wrote a loving book about his dad, and by all accounts he was a fine father to his own son.

Was the generation’s greatest political journalist, as virtually every commentator has drooled in recent days? Hardly. He might pass muster if you compare him to other TV journalists. Wolf Blitzer has gone soft. Anderson Cooper is well-meaning but goofy. Chris Matthews is a joke. As my colleague Loring Wirbel pointed out in an earlier post, no pedestals!

Russert broke little in his career. The most famous moment, we were told (and told endlessly over the past several days) was holding up a small whiteboard during the presidential election with the words “Florida, Florida, Florida” written on them. The one thing he’d probably want to be remembered for (watching out for media bias) is being glossed over. Unless you’re Bernard Goldberg who wrote about it today in The Wall Street Journal.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed watching him. But presidents and popes don’t get this kind of coverage.

In the end, it’s becoming an object lesson about what’s wrong with television media today. Television is so afflicted with navel-gazing that it’s ignoring its audience. Newspapers were so afflicted with navel-gazing until a few years ago that they ignored their audience and missed the Internet threat. Now they’re scrambling.

Soon it will be the MSNBCs of the world who will be scrambling if they don’t pull their heads out of their asses.

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8 Responses to “Let Tim Russert RIP…please”

  1. mclarke
    June 19th, 2008 @ 4:35 am

    MSNBC is already scrambling.

  2. Frank
    June 19th, 2008 @ 5:52 am

    What causes navel gazing? Insularity, arrogance, and its close cousin, insecurity. I used to be a journalist, so I know what I’m talking about.

    What breaks the cycle? A disaster – which as you say, is coming.

  3. Kerri
    June 19th, 2008 @ 7:35 am

    You’re not being entirely fair, though. He was a TV journalist, and he hung out with pols. What do they know how to do? Talk. That’s their coping mechanism. That’s what brings them peace and comfort.

    When someone in the music biz gets sick or dies, they throw a concert. When an artist dies, they have gallery shows and eat cheese and get emo. People deal with it they way they know how, and the way that’s most comfortable for pols and talking heads to validate their own existence (because that’s what memorials are all about, really) is to do what they know.

    When I die, I want everyone to crochet, play video games, drink vodka, and eat cupcakes. Because that’s what I’m comfortable with. 😉

  4. Loring Wirbel
    June 19th, 2008 @ 8:50 am

    Kerri, I agree with you completely, but I think it’s journalists’ duties to temper hagiographies, because the public has such a natural tendency to fawn over a casket when it’s put on 24-hour TV coverage. Who spoke up during Reagan’s funeral to remind people that he was really a pretty crappy president? And who was willing to gently remind people that Tim Russert was nice and sincere, but not the most probing or aggressive journalist in history? If we take the “do not speak ill of the dead” shtick too far, we no longer do our duty.

  5. Greeley's Ghost
    June 19th, 2008 @ 9:35 am

    Kerri, in what order do you want us to do those things on your passing? I have a few ideas if you’re stumped.
    ; )

  6. Kerri
    June 19th, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

    @Brian I’m gonna say save the crocheting for last. And wear safety glasses.

  7. Loring Wirbel
    June 19th, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

    The order of cupcakes and vodka has a lot to do with the coloration of the

  8. Ink-stained Dempsey
    June 24th, 2008 @ 7:33 am

    Meanwhile, ask yourself who has probably had more impact on 25-40 year-olds (and possibly beyond) in terms of worldview: Russert or Carlin?

    And has the relative coverage reflected that?

    Although in truth, I’d tend to give MSNBC a pass here. They are the junior network within the organization, and Russert was a key figure. However, elsewhere things did go too far.

    PS: Wasn’t Russert’s ‘finest’ (as opposed to most famous) hour nailing David Duke?

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