Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: Some thoughts

I wasn't going to watch NBC's special "Remembering Tim Russert." It seemed like too much, another time when the news goes into entertainment mode, hyping a sad occasion into a three-ring orgy produced to wring tears and ratings.

I heard the news where I hear most news these days, on-line, from Twitter posts actually. I watched CNNs pathetically maudlin coverage this afternoon while I rode the bike at the gym and then turned to NBC, figuring they would do something more dignified, something that didn't smack of having to fill the 24 hour news cycle. But NBC was showing Tiger Woods playing golf. I tuned in later to NBC's Evening News, assuming they would give Russert the kind of dignified, two-minute send off that they have done for other collegues who have died. Instead, the entire half hour program was devoted to talking heads, one journalist or politician after another after another, each with a minute or so with some memory of Tim Russert. Nothing else happened in the world today, according the NBC News. No fires in California or floods in the MidWest. There were no demonstrations in Pakistan and although the Nightly News originated tonight in the Middle East, nothing of note happened there either. Tim Russert died today, and that was, it seemed, all the news fit to broadcast. So I wasn't going to watch another hour from NBC. What for? What more could be said? And, more important I thought, why was NBC doing this?

But I did watch it, and from it I got some, not answers so much as elaborations on my questions. I'm putting them out here because I want to know what you think. To answer the last first, I think that NBC did it because the individual journalists involved were so full of grief and shock that they were collectively taking us, the viewing public, by the collar and saying, "Look, this is who this man was. You didn't know him like we did and we cannot let him go without you seeing his full measure."

In that, for me, they succeeded. I liked Tim Russert when I thought about him, which wasn't often and rarely on Meet the Press. I hated that he was so sure--and so right--about the Democratic nomination. I was annoyed by that gleam in his eye when he was doing political analysis. I saw it as a knowing smirk. Now I think that it was simply his enthusiasm for his subject, for politics, that created that gleam. But I didn't know him, or really care about him, and mostly what shocked me was how young he was. Now, however, after watching an hours worth of clips and interviews and lots of tape of Tim himself, now his death feels personal. Now I really will miss him, and in some ways that makes me mad at NBC, because to feel little is so much easier than to actually mourn.

I don't have a clever conclusion to this post. Mostly I'm wondering--what do you think?

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So--whaddaya think?