Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Russert's Death Disorients DC

Here's an excerpt from a review of Tim Russert's book Big Russ & Me from May 2004. I think it's dead on and gives a pretty good sense of why Russert's sudden death has been so disorienting.
Russert absolutely rules Sunday-morning Washington television journalism: he’s crushing his competitors—Bob Schieffer, of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” and George Stephanopoulos, of ABC’s “This Week”—in the Nielsen ratings. When there’s a monstrous “get” to be got, such as, back in February, an interview with President Bush in the Oval Office, Russert obtains it. His hour-long interviews with the Democratic Presidential candidates have ranked just behind the primaries this year as crucial tests for them. Since Bob Woodward publishes a book only every year or two, week in and week out Russert probably holds the distinction of being the journalist whose work Washington talks about most obsessively. The leading figures in both Washington journalism and television journalism are more than just solitary seekers and tellers of truth about the holders of governmental power. Russert performs a journalistic function on “Meet the Press” in the sense that he peppers officials with questions, but even if you don’t live in Washington it’s obvious that he’s a bigger deal than most of his guests. His role is that of a luminous fixed star in political space, around whom other bodies must orient themselves

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