Russert gets a final toast from Washington ; Politicians, journalists remember a ‘patriot’
Craig Wilson, 19 June 2008
WASHINGTON — Tim Russert would have loved it. Lots of stories, lots of politicians, lots of laughs. There was even a nun for good measure.
The host of NBC’s Meet the Press, 58, who died of a heart attack Friday, was praised, ribbed and mourned at a memorial service at the Kennedy Center Wednesday afternoon after a private funeral in Georgetown.
Washington’s elite turned out, including former president Bill Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and enough other senators to field a baseball team, including John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Chuck Schumer; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor under Clinton, Madeleine Albright; and enough journalists to make the politicians nervous.
Tom Brokaw set the tone. He hoisted a Rolling Rock to his longtime friend and said the afternoon was going to be done “Irish style. … Some tears, some laughs and the occasional truth.” He then went on to say Russert had a “strong sense of right and wrong. He came here to be a patriot.”
Brokaw was followed by nine other speakers who, over 11/2 hours, agreed that Russert loved his life, loved his job and loved his family, but not in that order. “There was nothing as important to him as being your father,” Brokaw said to Russert’s son, Luke, 22, who was the final speaker and received a standing ovation.
Luke told the crowd that his father embodied optimism and believed that with “faith, friends and a little folly, anyone can withstand anything.”
Old friend and fellow journalist Al Hunt said Russert, at a time when the news industry struggles to find its way, went the old- fashioned route through “preparation, integrity … and chalkboards.”
Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor for whom Russert worked before entering journalism, said Russert believed politics “could be a saintly profession.”
“It’s not enough to think of him as a great journalist,” Cuomo said. “How else could you explain this outpouring of love?”
Another friend and journalist, Mike Barnicle, said Russert treated everyone “as if they all grew up in the same parish.” California first lady Maria Shriver echoed the thought, talking of the “Russert radar. … He always knew who needed help.”
Sister Lucille Socciarelli, Russert’s seventh-grade teacher who started his journalism career when she named him editor of the school paper, backed that up. She said Russert, when choosing teams in school, “always picked the kid he thought might not be chosen.”
Even Bruce Springsteen, whom Russert adored, showed up via video from Europe to offer a Thunder Road solo. One could almost hear Russert reciting his favorite phrase from above: “Go get ‘em!”
The Boston Globe, Saturday, June 14, 2008
Tim Russert, tenacious journalist, dead at 58
Tim Russert, a powerhouse of broadcast journalism who made interviewing both an art form and a contact sport on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” died yesterday of a heart attack at age 58 after collapsing at the network’s Washington bureau.
Former Globe columnist Mike Barnicle – a longtime friend of Russert’s whose 15-year-old son, Tim, is named after the newsman – happened to be in the NBC bureau yesterday because he had been asked to guest-host MSBNC’s “Hardball.” He stopped in for a visit with Russert, after which he went to another office to prepare for “Hardball.” Suddenly an intern rushed in with the news that Russert had collapsed and was being taken to the hospital.
“Tim was uniquely without a mean bone in his body,” Barnicle said last night. “He had a joy about him that was nearly unmatched. At the end of the day or the end of the week, there was a part of him that would pinch himself: ‘Can you believe I’m allowed to do this show?’ “
Boston Herald, Saturday, June 14, 2008
Barnicle had just left Tim Russert in D.C. office
Boston newsman Mike Barnicle was at NBC’s Washington news bureau yesterday and was joking around with close friend Tim Russert 15 minutes before the “Meet the Press” host collapsed.
Barnicle, an occasional columnist for the Boston Herald, had made the trip to Washington, D.C., to substitute host for Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last night.
When Barnicle got to the bureau, he went down to see Russert, who was godfather to Barnicle’s 15-year-old son – and Russert’s namesake – Timothy.
The pair fooled around for a few minutes before Barnicle headed upstairs and left Russert to record some tracks for Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
About 15 minutes later, an intern came running into the “Hardball” office and said Russert had just collapsed downstairs. He’d been taken to the hospital.
Barnicle got the intern to give him a ride about a mile away to Sibley Memorial Hospital. “I got down there to the emergency room and they had just pronounced him,” Barnicle said.
Barnicle had known the 58-year-old Russert for about three decades. A few weeks ago, they celebrated Russert’s son Luke’s graduation from Boston College with dinner in the North End.
“He was not a mean person,” Barnicle said. “In a mean-spirited profession, he was not a mean person.
“And he came to the job and to his life and to his family and his faith each day with just pure joy,” Barnicle said.
Russert’s doctor said the newsman was aware he had asysmptomatic coronary disease and had taken steps including medication and exercise to control it.
May 8, 1997
In the days before curiosity died — killed by TV and a dwindling attention span — imagination and a wider world arrived in two basic forms and cost about five cents. Daily newspapers and voices over any radio walked readers and listeners through murders, wars, ballparks, different cities and foreign countries as well as intricate universes woven by electronic neighbors like Sam Spade, The Shadow, and Dick Tracy.
It was a world of bulletins and breakfast-table talk where the dated phrase “Stop the presses” actually meant something significant had just occurred. It is hard now to believe but life was so much simpler then that it could take hours, perhaps a day, to learn that MacArthur got fired, Bobby Thompson homered, Sam Sheppard was guilty, or Ike was hospitalized with a heart attack. CNN was something out of science fiction Impressions — visual as well as verbal — meant more and lasted longer. Travel was defined as leaving the block and few could measure events beyond the borders of small, proud lives bounded by the bus stop and the bedroom, so the captains of any voyage became people like Walter Winchell, Harry Wismer, Curt Gowdy, John Cameron Swayze, Bob Considine, Westbrook Pegler, Bill Cunningham, Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, and Murray Kempton.
Kempton died the other day in New York. He was 79 and had been writing for newspapers for 60 years. Most of you probably never read a line he wrote because the bulk of his work was largely restricted to five boroughs of the big town with all the bright lights. And to those familiar with the man’s constant efforts, I bet there was a part, perhaps a paragraph or two, of any Kempton piece that felt like homework because it was heavy and made you pause and go, “Huh?”
That’s because Kempton was different: He was thoughtful. In a business where so many occupy the pages and airwaves of our life simply to beat the same drum loudly, over and over, Murray Kempton was a symphony all by himself. Who else could describe Walter Reuther, the late head of the United Auto Workers, as a guy “capable of reminiscing about the future?”
While the media have become magnets for boasters and shameless self-promoters, Murray Kempton managed to present his audience a daily gift of modesty married to insight. In the introduction to a collection of his own essays on the 1930s, he wrote: “I have my own stake in the thirties. I was in high school when Roosevelt was inaugurated; I belonged for a little while to the Young Communist League . . .
“The thirties were a part of my life like any other; I am aware that there are things in it for which I must apologize; I am also aware that in the whole of my life there will be many things for which I must apologize, under what have to be compulsions stronger than a Congressional subpoena.”
The final time I saw him, he was standing on a street corner in the sultry dusk of a July evening last year near the federal building in lower Manhattan. A greeting quickly became a conversation that encompassed topics ranging from his respect for the honesty of Jim Kallstrom, an assistant director of the FBI, to his admiration of Bob Dole’s integrity, his disgust at Bill Clinton’s charming duplicity, and his fondness for those in his newspaper life who remained attentive and eager for each day’s developments as a chance to educate, entertain or inform a reader, rather than assassinate a subject.
The last time I spoke with him, in January, he was thrilled that Pete Hamill had taken over the New York Daily News. Hamill was an unusual pick as editor, chosen at a period when more and more media conglomerates are managed by accountants thrilled to hire those who seem incapable of curiosity and write with a trowel, their sentences totally interchangeable with the copy of a Ralph Lauren ad.
Murray Kempton was a warm and generous soul. He represented honor in an industry quaking beneath the weight of whores, in it only for ego, riches, prizes, or the kill. He would have been pleased by Hamill’s latest novel, “Snow in August,” because the book captures the magic of a childhood Kempton represented each time he tapped out a column: Simply a wonderful story and well told.
An argument can be made today that there is no more “news” in the shattering sense of decades past; there is only a constant coverage of process, procedures, and trends. And with Murray Kempton’s death, you sure can make a solid argument that there is far less elegance and genteel wisdom on our printed pages because a great man is gone.