Tim Russert, long time moderator of Meet the Press and a regular on NBC's election coverage, died today at the age of 58. He had collapsed in the Washington bureau of NBC. The cause was a sudden heart attack.
Tim Russert was born May 7, 1950 in Buffalo, New York. He attended Canisius High School in Buffalo. He received a Bachelor of Arts from John Carroll University. He received his juris doctor from Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. From 1977 to 1982 he was special counsel to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. From 1983 to 1984 he was a counsellor to Governor Mario Cuomo of New York.
It was in 1984 that Lawrence K. Grossman, at that time president of NBC News, convinced Russert to join NBC News. His first job for NBC was as an executive working on special news projects. Among other things, he arranged for Pope John Paul II's first interview on American television. He was promoted to NBC's Washington Bureau Chief in 1988. He would eventually be made a senior vice president of NBC News. It was in 1991 that Russert became moderator of Meet the Press. He held the post until his death, serving a total of 17 years. He was moderator of Meet the Press longer than anyone else.
There are so many reasons that Tim Russert was a giant of television. More than anyone else, he could make politics simple for the average person to understand. A perfect example of this was the plain, simple memo board he used on the election night of 2000 to explain the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Russert also carefully prepared for each episode of Meet the Press. It was always clear that he did in depth research for each and every show. And Russert did not shy away from tough questions. Politicians who went onto Meet the Press could expect some sharp questioning from him. What is more, while other political commentators and hosts often wear their political affiliation like a badge, Tim Russert was always tough on both Democrats and Republicans. In the past he had directed hard questions to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney. One could never really accuse him of taking sides. I think it is very safe to say that Sunday mornings just won't be the same without him.