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Old 06-13-2008, 06:48 PM   #1
Auburn Annie
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Default "Explainer-in-chief" dead at 58

Tim Russert, one of the most powerful news executives in television who headlined what is arguably one of the industry's most powerful and influential programs - "Meet the Press" - has died. NBC News has broken into regular programming and is right at this moment airing tributes on MSNBC. "Our friend was 58 years old," says Brian Williams. "We cannot believe that he's gone," said Tom Brokaw, his voice breaking.

Buffalo-born and intimately associated with that city and its Bills, which he loved, Russert was first a politician before he was a journalist - counsel to Governor Mario Cuomo in 1983 to 1984 and chief of staff to Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from 1977 to 1982. He went to NBC in '84 and later became Washington bureau chief. Over those years, Russert was a storied figure at NBC - he was considered a shrewd inside operator, but also probably one of the most effective news executives at NBC over the last twenty years. He was hugely respected there - as legendary a figure as a suit could be - and feared as well. He ran the Washington bureau - reputedly - as his own separate fiefdom from New York headquarters, which was fine with the big staff there - wary of New York interference and thanks to Russert, it became a singularly powerful news organization in its own right. While CBS News' Washington presence declined, NBC's influence grew - again, all thanks to Russert, who became a genuine Beltway power-broker as a result.

But here was Russert's greatest contribution: He re-created and revivified "Meet the Press," which had grown tired and moribund, and that was reflected in ratings. By the time he got there, the once mighty "Press" had sunk to third place, while the hot Sunday morning show was over on LaSalle Avenue at ABC - where David Brinkley, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson held forth. Russert brought a unique style to "Press" - aggressive and comprehensive. He would ask a question, and then - just so the subject of his inquisition didn't wiggle away - he'd throw up a quote from a newspaper article on the screen, which would either offer support to his question, or force the senator or congressman or what-have-you to address the fact on screen.

Before long, "Press" was considered sport TV as much as informational TV - a Sunday destination where spin-meisters would meet a brick wall thrown up by Russert. "There was nothing more chilling than watching Tim walk in with those two thick folders under his arm," said David Axelrod - Barack Obama's chief media strategist on CNN a little while ago. "You always spent a little extra time preparing for him. You knew your candidate was going to be put through the paces on that show," who added: "He also gave you a chance to answer. He was tough but he was fair."

But maybe Russert's most indelible moment was during the Florida primaries - one of the longest nights in TV news history, or - let's say - one of the most sweat-inducing. Through that night, Russert - and through many other nights leading up to the historic primary - Russert scribbled figures on a chalk board, in which he tabulated delegates or votes; that night, he scribbled "Florida, Florida, Florida," meaning this was the state where an election, and history, were about to be made. It was one of the most prescient and dramatic moments of the 2000 race.

There's a lot lot more to say, but here's a personal note: I just got off the phone with chief Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski: "Everybody is just devastated," he said. "As hardbitten as we all are, we can't talk to each other without breaking down. This is a huge personal loss to everyone at NBC. He was the real deal."

Here are some other quotes that came over the transom:

"This is a loss for the entire nation," said Steve Capus, NBC News president. Everyone at NBC News is in shock and absolutely devastated. He was our respected colleague, mentor, and dear friend. Words can not express our heartbreak. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maureen,
Luke, Big Russ and all of Timís family. "

"We are heartbroken at the sudden passing of Tim Russert," said NBCUNI boss, Steve Capus. "We have lost a beloved member of our NBC Universal family and the news world has lost one of its finest. The enormity of this loss cannot be overstated. More than a journalist,
Tim was a remarkable family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife,
Maureen, their son, Luke, and Timís entire extended family."
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Old 06-13-2008, 07:29 PM   #2
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Default Re: "Explainer-in-chief" dead at 58

Yep, another loss. I watched him quite a bit. A serious, scintillating mind fronted by a friendly face. He will be missed.
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Old 06-13-2008, 09:44 PM   #3
Jesse Joe
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Default Re: "Explainer-in-chief" dead at 58

I was watching Larry King a few moments ago. Some say he was the best interviewer ever. Real sad at 58.
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: "Explainer-in-chief" dead at 58

i'm watching a tribute to him right now..with tom brokaw..he was deeply respected and obvioulsy well liked and admired..
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