Friday, June 13, 2008

To Everything There Is A Season

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven
Tributes honouring legendary TV journalist Tim Russert, host of NBC’s MEET THE PRESS, are pouring in after his sudden death today in Washington at age 58. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw broke the news on air today (June 13), shortly after Russert collapsed.

“This was one of the most important years in Tim's life for so many reasons. He loved this political campaign. He worked to the point of exhaustion so many weeks, not just on MEET THE PRESS, but on MSNBC, and with our colleague, Brian Williams, of course, during the debates and on Special Coverage on NBC Nightly News,” said Brokaw.

Political junkies and newshounds alike will remember Russert as a funny, warm, energetic, no-nonsense fellow, with an astute political mind. He was the longest-serving host of the Sunday news program that dominated its genre.

He spent 17 years hosting MEET THE PRESS and traveling across the United States encouraging young people to get interested and involved in the political process. He was widely regarded as a man of extraordinary integrity who always treated his interview subjects fairly and with respect.

“We are heartbroken at the sudden passing of Tim Russert,” said Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal’s chief executive officer.

“We have lost a beloved member of our NBC Universal family and the news world has lost one of its finest. The enormity of this loss cannot be overstated. More than a journalist, Tim was a remarkable family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Maureen, their son, Luke, and Tim's entire extended family.”

America’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, have paid tribute to the broadcaster.

An article by Susan Davis quotes Obama as remarking, “There wasn’t a better interviewer in television, a more thoughtful analyzer of politics and he was also one of the finest men I knew, somebody who cared about America, cared about the issues, cared about his family. I am grief stricken with the loss and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family. And I hope that even though Tim is irreplaceable that the standard that he set in his professional life and family life are standards that we’ll all carry with us in our own lives.”

His death is a great loss, not just to the practice of journalism, but to journalism educators and students. Russert was scheduled to be honoured this month by the Newhouse School of Public Communications (Syracuse University) for lifetime achievement. The honor will now be given posthumously.

“We were shocked and saddened to learn of his passing,” says Newhouse Dean David M. Rubin. “We extend our condolences to his family, his colleagues and all those who have watched and admired him through the years.”
Those who have watched and learned courtesy of Russert must surely number in the millions. But he was known and loved best by his wife, Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, and his son Luke, soon to graduate from Boston College.

It's impossible to imagine MEET THE PRESS without him. All North Americans are a little poorer for the loss of such a great mind and compassionate human being. He's already missed.

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