Friday, May 1, 2009

Remembering Tim Russert

Honoring a Legacy and a News Icon

This June will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of broadcast journalism icon Tim Russert. Many people close to me know "The G-Man" was an enourmous fan and supporter of Russert and "Meet the Press", and I remain devoted to the show now that David Gregory is at the helm. Gregory is doing an admirable job, but there is a part of me that wishes Russert would walk onto the set one day, with that lovable smile and childlike enthusiasm he often displayed, and say, "Man! I really needed that extended vacation. It's great to be back!" I suspect there are many who wish for the same.

I published the following article a couple of days after death placed its icy grip on Russert's shoulder and said, "Well done, but now it's time to go." Writing it helped me come to terms with the fact that I lost someone whom I considered a mentor in the field of journalism. Now that the anniversary is fast approaching, I've decided to post it on this blog and give people another chance to understand why Russert meant so much to me, as well as countless Americans concerned about the political and social issues affecting this country.

On June 13, 2008, I logged on to the Internet to read my email on Yahoo. I followed my normal routine, which consisted of ignoring a few pop-up ads and perusing the top news stories of the day. I was in a public library when I suddenly gasped and placed my hand over my mouth. People looked at me curiously, but I offered no explanation for my outburst. I was far too busy trying to maintain my composure as my eyes remained fixed on a cover story photo of a journalism icon. I stared at my laptop screen for nearly four minutes, looking somberly into the blue eyes of one of the greatest men to ever grace a television screen, and quietly said, “No, Tim. No.” There, in big, bold, black font were the painful words “NBC’s Tim Russert Dead at 58”.

Shortly after the stunning announcement, network and cable news directors and producers across the country paid tribute to Russert and his amazing legacy as a broadcast journalist. Renowned figures from politics, sports, news and entertainment expressed great sorrow as they reflected on Russert’s passing. Sadly, a number of vicious comments were posted on the Internet after Tom Brokaw broke the devastating news to America on MSNBC. In a nutshell, the sorry, insensitive and crude sons-of-bitches claimed Russert “wasn’t all that” and that too much coverage was being devoted to the death of the 17-year host of “Meet the Press”. Well, I sincerely hope the networks will honor this man by continuing to share his accomplishments, both personally and professionally, for days to come. Given Russert’s phenomenal contribution to American politics and culture, it would be the least they could do.

I absolutely have no problem saying that I loved and deeply respected Tim Russert! In an era where goofy, stupid, self-centered, half-assed media whores and commentators posing as journalists flood network and cable airwaves, Russert symbolized what real journalism is supposed to be. I’ve only held five journalists in extremely high regard over the last 50 years or so: Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, the late Peter Jennings, PBS’s Charlie Rose and Russert. It was during my teens that I discover Murrow and Cronkite were journalism titans. I got hooked on Jennings and his “Canadian cool” as a student at Queens College in Flushing, New York. I’ve been inviting Rose into my living room every night at 11 p.m. for the last 10 years, and Russert made Meet the Press part of my religion and routine on Sundays.

These mavens of media had one major thing in common that drew me to them and made me a loyal fan: integrity! However, it was Tim Russert who stood out among them as the best in the business. If the “suits” over at NBC/MSNBC are smart they’ll never, never, never let another journalist put their grubby little hands on Russert’s now famous white eraser board. That would be completely sacrilegious, and no one will ever be worthy of such an honor. My love for Russert and Meet the Press stems from the fact that he was not afraid to shake up Washington D.C.’s, political establishment by asking the hard questions, and he didn’t stop until he got an answer. On a number of occasions, I often felt he’d come dangerously close to saying “Stop with the bullshit!” when politicians or foreign leaders were clearly lying to him and the viewers. NBC policy prevented that from ever happening, but if you ever looked at Russert’s face when the politician or foreign dignitary got caught in a web of lies, his expressions and mannerisms spoke volumes…and true, hardcore Russert loyalists like me loved it!

The death of Tim Russert cuts deep into the regions of both my journalistic and righteous core, but if The G-Man could manage to say one thing to honor this amazing, exceptionally prepared, spirited and lovable Irishman, it would be this. Mr. Russert, black America owes you an enormous debt. Many don’t realize it because they’re not into politics or have never taken the time to watch Meet the Press. As a result, there are black people all across the nation that missed the powerful and controversial one-hour segment that featured entertainer Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint, the renowned black scholar and psychologist.

They appeared to discuss a book they authored entitled “Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors”, and the duo cited significant problems within black communities and families, nationwide, and challenged them to wake the hell up, stand up and fight for a better way of life. They were nothing short of brilliant in their assessment of both the state of black America and what the outcome will be if immediate action isn’t taken. The G-Man knows you probably caught hell for wanting to present this issue to a predominately white audience, which was far from the norm for most Sunday morning political news shows. Still, you forged ahead and produced one of the greatest segments in the show’s history. The G-Man also knows that an intense love of family, namely the crucial role fathers play, is what drove you to tackle the issue head on when most white Sunday morning political news show producers and hosts would’ve hauled ass yelling, “Lose my demographic over this? Oh…hell…no!!!

What you did that Sunday had nothing to do with politics, news or being the Managing Editor of Meet the Press. It had everything to do with what your father “Big Russ” taught you about the importance of family, as well as the legacy you left for your son Luke and your wife. You were trying to help my people, and millions of them missed out because of sheer ignorance or apathy. On behalf of those in black communities across the nation who saw the show and realized what your true objective was, thank you, thank you…thank you! Jesus! I’m going to miss you so damn much, Mr. Russert! The G-Man is wiping his eyes and saluting you, and all things Buffalo, with an ice-cold beer. It’s time to rest now, so sleep well in the House of The Lord.

Photo source: originally posted to Flickr as Tim Russert - PRSA International Conference - Philadelphia, PA

Date: October 22, 2007


Author: hyku from Winter Haven, FL, USA