Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert, a life lived large

The sudden death of Tim Russert is being prominently featured across Web sites and on TV. What's especially interesting about the coverage is how much it's dominated by Tim Russert the man, husband, father, son, philanthropist and Catholic. His journalistic achievements -- preeminently the longest-appearing host on the longest-running program ever on network television -- were detailed. But what competitor colleagues, politicos and others often stressed more was the Russert who lived a rich and full life miles away from the red eye of the TV camera. Russert, who was 58, never forgot he came from Buffalo, NY (the "frozen buckle of the Rust Belt"), and that he was the son of a sanitation worker and (after his shift ended) evening newspaper deliverer -- "Big Russ" in his affectionate memoir, "Big Russ and Me: Father and Son: Lessons of Life." He was also a proud Catholic, among whose biggest life experiences were his audiences with Pope John Paul II and, more recently, Pope Benedict XVI, on his trip to Washington in April. Eulogizers also remembered Russert as a family man, married to Vanity Fair magazine writer Maureen Orth. Russert and Orth had just returned with their son Luke from a trip in Rome to celebrate Luke's graduation from Boston College.

Here's Russert's bio on My Space.

If journalists want to be thought of more positively -- or at least less contemptuously -- they will certainly want to look at the example of Tim Russert -- as fair as he was tough -- but they may also want to look at his large life beyond TV newsrooms and studio sets.

Eulogies -- and comments from his viewers.

Behind Russert's extraordinary impact as a political journalist.

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