Accuracy in Media

If the
President or a former President died would we have seen greater coverage than
that which was afforded the untimely death of NBC Bureau Chief and Moderator of
Meet the Press
Tim Russert. Not only did NBC and MSNBC devote hours of coverage on Friday, June
13, the day he passed, but The
Today Show
came on and whereas Lester Holt usually anchors that program, Matt Lauer, Tom
Brokaw and Al Roker provided non-stop coverage. The only non-Russert program
consisted of Natalie Morales doing approximately five minutes of news each hour,
centering on the devastating Iowa floods.

That is
understandable for NBC. Tim Russert was the NBC political star. He had more
credibility than the other political news reporters combined. What struck me as
more remarkable was the extensive coverage given to Russert’s death by ABC, CBS
and by FOX, which devoted over half its morning show
Fox and
Friends to its
competitor.

I met Russert
once. I agreed with him on most points. He made you feel important. My son and
daughter-in-law gave me Russert’s book,
BIG RUSS AND ME a
few years ago. An interesting aspect of the coverage was the amount of time
Russert devoted to his family. He celebrated his parents, his wife of 25 years
and his only son, Luke. Russert recently returned from Rome, celebrating Luke’s graduation from Boston College. Luke and his mother were in
Rome when given
the shocking news.

The reason, I
believe, why Russert received so much adulation was because in a city of sin,
this man was virtuous. A practicing Catholic, he took the Gospel seriously. He
had a great passion for the less fortunate and helped any way he could. He
participated in hundreds of charitable events and raised millions. Russert
avoided most of the social scene in Washington. Instead he spent time with his
family. He was an avid sports fan and when he had spare time he and Luke could
be found at a game.

His father
passed along virtuous behavior to Tim and his three sisters. He was teaching
Luke the same virtues. When Ronald Reagan died he received the same kind of
outpouring of sentiment and for the same reason. It is interesting how the media
glorifies sin and actively promotes evil. Yet when someone virtuous dies, as
with Russert, Reagan and Charlton Heston, it cannot help but acknowledge that
the people respect someone who tries to be
decent.

Russert’s
father told Tim to never forget where he came from and he never did. The flags
are at half staff in Buffalo, New
York for that very reason. He and I had one thing in
common and that is our blue-collar roots. Tim’s father drove a garbage truck. My
father shoveled coal into huge boilers on the night shift at a Catholic
hospital. Like Big Russ, my father was virtuous and both worked a second job to
help their family.

Russert worked
very hard. Jack Welch, former President of General Electric (GE), became
Russert’s friend. He revealed that Russert was the only talent at NBC who had no
agent. He wanted to run
Meet the Press
as he saw fit. Through hard work he single-handedly revived Sunday morning
talk-shows. Bob Schieffer of CBS, who went head to head with Russert for 18
years, believed his program was better because he had to compete with Russert.
The public loved Meet the Press
because Russert came across as genuine. He literally taught people politics. Big
Russ told him, “Forget all those Washington types. Pretend you are talking to
me.” He did. Ordinary people could understand the political process because of
him.

It is believed
that we never will see anyone like Russert again. That will only be true if this
is the end of virtue. He was an avid mentor of our youth, including young
reporters. If one could forego the social scene, learn to work hard, be devoted
to his or her family and practice the virtues, then we again may see someone
similar to Russert. If what follows is the usual cynical non-believing, unfair
newsman, figuring out how one can cheat on his spouse and avoid spending time
with his family, then the ethos of Washington will have triumphed. I hope and
pray that will not happen.

Meanwhile, let
us all pray for the repose of the soul of Tim Russert. May he rest in a place
where there is no grief and pain but only life everlasting. Memory Eternal!
 


Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media or its staff.



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