Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

Like many other people, I was shocked to hear of the untimely and too-soon death of NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert of South Buffalo yesterday afternoon. The news spread quickly through our office, and indeed, we had to act fast to get a release out on the topic.
Like him or dislike him, it is hard to say that Timothy Russert was not influential in politics, both through his media career and previous career serving on the staffs of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the late former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, eventually as chief of staff for the latter. Presidential election and primary coverage will not be the same without him.
While he may be criticized for asking less than pointed questions and followups at times, Russert deserves credit for bringing "Meet the Press" out of its doldrums and wonk-only audience period to a new level of relevancy, and at times his questions and style of questions were quite like cross-examination, no doubt from his law training.
But Russert may be best known and remembered here as an untiring, strong and sincere booster of Buffalo and of his family, particularly from his best-selling book, "Big Russ and Me." His pride in his Irish Catholic Buffalo upbringing and never forgetting what got him where he was (hard work, blue-collar values, family) are things that let him not only keep his humanity, but make many friends and more admirers. Val voiced it and we both noticed it during MSNBC's coverage last night: Is there any photo in which Russert does not show off that Irish twinkle in his eyes? It is fitting that City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown chose to have the city lowered its flags to half-staff.
He died too soon at age 58, and dying on the start of Father's Day weekend and surviving his dad (Russert has a son, Luke) adds some extra sadness, a thing I know as I continue to adjust to the death of my Irish Catholic father, Edward, four years ago, and the death of Val's Irish Catholic father, Edward Patrick Dunne, almost five years ago.
My first contact with Russert came on Buffalo State College's graduation day in 1985, as he served as the commencement speaker. It was considered to have been a major coup to have gotten him to speak mainly because of his political work; little did we know what kind of media giant he would become.
Rest in peace, Tim.


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