Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert: RIP

By: Harry Waisbren

Tim Russert died this Friday at the age of 58. It has been very interesting to watch the media reaction, as although I knew he was revered in press and political circles, the outpouring of good will to the family and friends he left behind has been remarkable. Here is Tom Brokaw commenting on his passing (via TP):

I find his passing to be very sad, despite the fact that I believe his form of gotcha style journalism to be the epitome of what is wrong with our media system. I find myself in complete agreement with John Cole regarding this subject when he wrote:

I liked Tim Russert, even though I thought his BS gotcha nonsense was
thorough idiocy and not helping the debate at all. He was a likable guy-
friendly, always smiling. I understand it is a loss for the beltway folks, and
he had a lot of really good friends and meant a lot to people, and I would be
dishonest if I failed to mention that I feel sad by his passing.

MSNBC has been running nothing but a 5 hour (and presumably it will go
until 11 pm or beyond) marathon of Russert remembrance. CNN has done their due
diligence, and Fox news has spent at least the last half hour talking non-stop
about him.But let’s get something straight- what I am watching right now on the
cable news shows is indicative of the problem- no clearer demonstration of the
fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well,
part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked
the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It
is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they
get away with these days.

Tim Russert was a newsman. He was not the Pope. This is not the JFK
assassination, or Reagan’s death, or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. A
newsman died. We know you miss him, but please shut up and get back to

I think Cole is completely right, and the degree of reverance paid to Russert signifies all that is wrong with our system. It is true that he has become a very important political figure, but isn't that a sign that there is something inherrently wrong with the form of journalism he practiced? In fact, I believe a true journalist would find it abhorrent for the news to be blocked out for so long in order to cover his passing. It is just this sort of distraction that allows the crimes of the powerful to go unheeded, and if similar distractions were not constantly made up I might feel differently about it. However, considering our media has used the death of quasi-celebrities such as Anna Nicole Smith as a rationale not to cover issues of true import, I am forced to look at the self revelry of a death of a colleague in a similar fashion.

So for what it is worth, I spread my regrets of his passing out into the wilderness of the internets. However, I believe that during times of passing such as these it is incumbent upon the living to reflect upon what the life and death of a person truly means. In this case, I hope our media, political, and citizenry classes recognize that Tim Russert was loved very dearly by his friends, colleagues, and the politicians he would interview...yet is that the sort of person who should be entrusted with being a watchdog on the powerful for the rest of us?

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