Publisher's Memo

By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2008

It’s the day after Tim Russert died, and I’m struck with what he meant to so many. The passing of the 58-year-old moderator of Meet the Press (the most important political news program on television), chief of NBC’s Washington news bureau and best-selling author (Big Russ and Me and Wisdom of our Fathers) triggered an outpouring of love, respect and loss. Fellow journalists, competitors, employees, politicians, friends and viewers weighed in on how deeply this man touched them. 

I’m not surprised at the impact Russert had with millions of viewers. Aside from his astute observations, he always projected a big, natural smile, a down-to-earth persona, sincere exuberance and refreshing authenticity. He was the pal we invited into our homes every week (and more frequently during this intense election year). We looked to him to not only ask the tough questions for us but to provide clarity to what it all means.   

In death, Tim Russert still provides us with clarity. What I heard and read about him after his passing resonated more than any how-to book on life and work. His core qualities represent shining standards for all of us. I sense Russert didn’t think a lot about balancing his dedication to family with that of career. His passionate commitment to both just meant that he would immerse himself in both. And while he clearly worked hard, he genuinely appeared to be having fun. His almost boyish zeal for the subject of his work was contagious. And I’m speaking as a viewer. Apparently, he had the same effect on his colleagues. This man who many believe to have set the standard for political journalism was thrilled to be working at his craft.

Those who knew commented on how prepared Russert was for every interview and roundtable discussion. Quite simply, he did his homework. Politicians he interviewed knew they had to do theirs to survive his direct, thorough questioning. Characterized by pols and reporters as tough but fair—not a “gotcha” journalist—but one genuinely in quest of the truth, Russert didn’t back down yet was always civil. Many attribute his well-researched questioning to making them all better at what they did.    

His brilliant instincts, high standards, work ethic and enthusiasm made him a role model for other journalists, many whom he caringly mentored along the way. It seems to me we can all learn from Tim Russert. His life is a lesson on how a successful career is anchored in basic virtues. In these times, when gimmicks, gadgets and hype so often take center stage, it’s good to remember what truly counts. 

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