Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert's passing

The journalism world today is mourning the passing of an outstanding colleague, Tim Russert of NBC News. Russert, 58, was the managing editor of their Washington DC Bureau and was best known as the tenacious, tough-but-fair host of NBC's Sunday morning political talk program "Meet the Press." Remarkably, NBC Nightly News last evening was devoted entirely to remembering this smart and decent man. Russert was up-front (but never in anyone's face) about being a practicing cradle Catholic of working-class Irish roots. It was good to see how his co-workers knew this about him and appreciated how it informed his journalism: with high integrity, a passion for the truth and a commitment to hold those in power accountable -- exactly what journalism should be doing in a democracy. They acknowledged his love for his family and faith, and thought it somehow fitting that he had just returned from a trip with his wife and son to Italy where he had the privilege of meeting Pope Benedict.

There is a great deal of talk in newsrooms about the need for 'diversity' but the discussion is nearly always in terms of gender and racial diversity, rarely in terms of religious representation. It is journalism's big blind spot. The news business needs more people like Russert to hold journalism itself to a high standard of decency and act as its conscience.

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