Russert gave us an example

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 15, 2008

Unless you&8217;ve been under a rock, you&8217;ve heard the news that journalist Tim Russert died Friday in his office at NBC&8217;s Washington Bureau.

You&8217;ll hear a lot of famous folks talk about their friend, Tim, who sat at the interview table of &8220;Meet the Press&8221; for 17 years.

Unless you&8217;ve watched him in action, you really have no concept of working journalist.

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Russert was a model for all of us to follow, even in small city newspapers like the Times-Journal.

He knew his subject. There&8217;s no accounting for the reading in preparation Russert did before his guest appeared on the show. But he wasn&8217;t content just to read about the person, he talked to people. He actually left the office and visited, face-to-face, with folks on the street.

It must have been some of the blue collar in him that made him want to sit in on hearings, instead of watching them on television; that made him follow folks at break into the halls and engage them in conversation to get to the heart of the story.

But as much as his reputation for bulldog journalist stood him in good stead, so did Russert&8217;s penchant for fairness. He was an ardent Democrat, but when it came to covering politics, his position didn&8217;t matter.

The matter came in getting information from the person in the interview conveyed over to the people who depended on Russert for news.

Our national community stood in good stead with this man at the helm.

Yes, he made mistakes. We all make mistakes. We are human.

But he knew the value of balance in journalism. He practiced that every time he fired questions at a public figure.

Russert didn&8217;t&8217; forget his roots. He did not become a demagogue of the airways as so many broadcast journalists have become.

It must have been the advice of his dad, &8220;Big Russ,&8221; a newspaper delivery person and sanitation worker that kept Russert&8217;s head on straight.

“Pretend you’re talking to me,” his dad said. “Don’t get too fancy. Don’t talk that Washington talk. You’ve got to talk so people can understand you.”

This journalist will miss Russert&8217;s example because most of us don&8217;t have his passion, his desire, his talent and his work ethic.

Leesha Faulkner is executive editor of the Times-Journal. She may be reached at 410-1730 or e-mail her at