Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sad, sad day.........

Tim Russert, tenacious journalist, dead at 58

By Don Aucoin Globe Staff / June 14, 2008

Tim Russert, a powerhouse of broadcast journalism who made interviewing both an art form and a contact sport on NBC's "Meet the Press," died yesterday of a heart attack at age 58 after collapsing at the network's Washington bureau.

Russert's death reverberated through the worlds of journalism and politics, two arenas where his passion matched his expertise. His preparation and tenacity on "Meet the Press" made that show must-viewing inside the Beltway and beyond, and "the Russert Primary" was considered a test that presidential candidates had to pass to be considered serious contenders.

Yet however rugged the exchanges, Russert invariably ended with the same gentlemanly refrain: "Thank you for sharing your views." Paradoxical though it seemed, Russert was both feared and liked in Washington, where he was NBC's bureau chief. That was reflected in the bipartisan tributes that poured forth yesterday after Russert's death.

President Bush called Russert a "tough and hard-working newsman," who was "as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it." Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain called Russert "the preeminent political journalist of his generation" and "a terrific guy," while presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama called Russert "irreplaceable" and "one of the finest men I knew."

Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, whose supporters often took issue with Russert's treatment of both, said in a joint statement: "Tim had a love of public service and a dedication to journalism that rightfully earned him the respect and admiration of not only his colleagues but also those of us who had the privilege to go toe to toe with him." Senator Edward M. Kennedy alluded to the high stakes a go-round with Russert could have for a political career: "With a reasoned voice, a sharp mind, and a fair hand, Tim took the measure of every Washington official and those that sought to be one."

According to NBC, Russert was recording voice-overs for tomorrow's broadcast of "Meet the Press" when he collapsed. NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust said last night via e-mail that the cause of death was a "sudden heart attack." Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw announced the news on the air shortly after 3:30 p.m. Brokaw said Russert had just returned from a trip to Italy with his wife, Maureen Orth, and son, Luke, to celebrate Luke's recent graduation from Boston College.

Russert was a ubiquitous figure on television; the sight of him puzzling out the 2000 election on a whiteboard remains an indelible image of that tumultuous contest. His labors on behalf of NBC were no less prodigious in the current presidential campaign. On the day of a typical primary, a viewer could see and hear Russert just after 7 a.m. on NBC's "Today" show, all through the night on MSNBC, sometimes until after midnight, and there he would be at 7 a.m. the next morning on "Today" again. "He worked to the point of exhaustion so many weeks," Brokaw said

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