Saturday, 14 June 2008

"Meet The Press" Tim Russert Dies at 58

Tim Russert

Read here: By Howard Kurtz and HERE

Tim Russert, the Democratic operative turned NBC commentator who revolutionized Sunday morning television and infused journalism with his passion for politics, died this afternoon.

Russert suffered a heart attack while working in his office on Washington's Nebraska Avenue.

Russert served as NBC's Washington bureau chief and the host of "Meet the Press," the top-rated Sunday talk show, which had an enormous influence on politics and was marked by his aggressive style of interrogation.

As a frequent commentator on the "Today" show, "NBC Nightly News" and other shows, Russert wielded such clout that when he declared that Sen. Barack Obama had wrapped up the Democratic nomination last month, his pronouncement was treated as a news event in itself.

Russert's television career was marked by a voracious appetite for politics and a shrewd understanding of how politicians interact with the media. He also wrote a book about his father, titled "Big Russ and Me."

Last week, he moved Big Russ to a nursing facility.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw gave MSNBC viewers the news of Russert's death at 3:40 p.m.

"He worked to the point of exhaustion so many weeks," Brokaw said, adding: "This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice."

Brokaw said Russert had just returned from a family trip to Italy with his wife, writer Maureen Orth. Their son, Luke, graduated from Boston College this spring, Brokaw said.

Russert served as host of "Meet the Press" longer than any other person and was "one of the premier political analysts and journalists of his time," Brokaw said.

The Buffalo native got his start in New York politics, working for then-senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and then-governor Mario Cuomo.

Russert took over "Meet the Press" in December 1991. It became the most watched Sunday morning interview program in the country. It is the longest-running program in television history.

His signature trait there was an unrelenting style of questioning that made some politicians reluctant to appear, yet confident that they could claim extra credibility if they survived his grilling intact.

This year, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Carl P. Leubsdorf, president of the Gridiron Club, an organization of journalists, said in a statement,

"It was a measure of the degree to which Tim Russert was respected in the journalistic world that he was the first broadcaster elected to membership in the Gridiron Club after the rules were changed in 2004 to end our century-old restriction to print journalists.

Russert had Buffalo's blue collar roots, a Jesuit education, a law degree and a Democratic pedigree that came from his turn as an aide to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.

He was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 7, 1950. He graduated from Canisius High School, John Carroll University and with honors from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Before joining NBC in 1984, Russert served as counselor in the New York governor's office in Albany in 1983 and 1984 and as special counsel in the U.S. Senate from 1977 to 1982.

He was admitted to the bar in New York and D.C.

Russert is survived by his wife, Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair magazine, and their son, Luke.

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