Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Fair and Balanced Tim Russert Obit

From Harper's:

A Fair and Balanced Tim Russert Obit
Ken Silverstein
Via the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
My sympathies go to Tim Russert’s family. My father died the same way: massive heart attack in the middle of the day, in the prime of his life (he was 46, Russert was 58). Shock doesn’t begin to describe the effect on those who stay behind. Try anger, try a sense of loss that, contrary to greeting-card drivel, never fades until, I expect, one’s own final collapse. Russert wasn’t family, but it’s fair to say, as the casket-lidded lines at the end of obituaries usually do, that his survivors include the 3 million viewers who tuned in every Sunday to watch “Meet the Press,” and even the procession of politicians who’ve been squirming their way through his show since 1991. Sadly for us, television personalities can seem closer to us than family members. Russert, however, never had that effect on me.
Respect for the man aside, there’s a matter of respecting journalism when assessing Russert’s place in the trade. That respect has been lacking in the almost universally fawning tributes to Russert and the craft he represented. Journalists and politicians from the president on down have formed yet another procession of praise and prostrations worthy of, say, Diana or Elvis. But Tim Russert?…
The truth is that on any night of the week Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” does more in a two-minute segment to show in politicians’ own words how venal, dishonest, contradictory and just plain dense they can be than Russert did in his Sunday services. Russert’s master was always the political structure he grilled, but never fundamentally questioned. You always knew whose side he was on: power, not truth — and, by power, I don’t mean his own, of which he had plenty, but the powerful men and occasional women he invited to his Versailles.
I mourn his death. But I wish I could mourn the death of the journalism he represented. To the detriment of journalism and malinformed citizens, that parody lives on.

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