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Goodbye to a Journalist

NBC's Tim Russert defined politics on TV

By Jack Greenberg | null null , null
Tim Russert with Kid Reporter Jack Greenberg. (Photo courtesy Jack Greenberg)<br />
Tim Russert with Kid Reporter Jack Greenberg. (Photo courtesy Jack Greenberg)

One of the top journalists in the nation died on Friday. Tim Russert, NBC News' Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press, was 58 years old. He collapsed from what is believed to be a heart attack while at work.

Scholastic News Kid Reporter Jack Greenberg recently interviewed Mr. Russert. He submitted his story just this week.

Since the early days of this nation, journalists have studied and reported on the political world, questioning authority and exposing hypocrites. We call them political pundits. One of the greatest is NBC's Tim Russert.

Russert recently stopped by Southern Connecticut State University for its Mary & Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture Series. Scholastic News spent some time with Russert before the lecture, talking about the presidential election and his job.

When asked if he has enjoyed covering this election more than other past elections, he answered with an enthusiastic, "Yes!"

"For the first time since 1952, an incumbent President or Vice President is not seeking the nomination in either of the parties," he explained. As an expert in history, Russert was familiar with the brief campaign of Alben Barkley, the 35th Vice President of the United States. He made a brief attempt at running for President, but withdrew after only a few weeks, leaving the race wide open.

"Other than that, we go all the way back to 1928 where the race was so wide open on both sides," he said.

Election 2008 is history in the making for other reasons, he pointed out. "A woman and African American both had the chance of earning the Democratic nomination for the President of The United States, which is historic," he said. "I was thinking that even though the Iowa caucuses were only a few months ago, they've felt like 30 years ago. This has been a nonstop, extraordinary thing, but it has been very exhilarating because the country is so addicted."

Learned Lecture

During his lecture, Russert talked about the issues prominent in this presidential election cycle. He particularly mentioned the 2001 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.

"[This is] a big election about big issues between big candidates. ... The differences are going to be very clear," he said.

Displaying his ever present optimism, Russert said he was positive Americans can solve the complex problems this nation faces. He said politicians should trust the voters to listen to their solutions, no matter how complex. The candidates should put aside partisan politics and find "Common ground" to fix problems, he continued.

"This is not easy," he said of the challenges facing the nation. "It's difficult and complicated. We're not going to wave a wand and fix Iraq or fix Social Security."

Overall, Russert said he is excited that so many people are interested in the election this year. 
"I think one of the reasons people in this country are interested in this race is because it is so close and exciting," he said. "I can't go anywhere without questions about the campaign, the candidates, or the race, or what's going to happen and I'm honored to cover it."

In conclusion, he said voters will be given clear choices this November. The course of the Iraq war will be decided by the voters since both Democrats and Republicans have such opposing positions.

"It is important that all of us then take advantage of this opportunity," he said.

Honored Career

Russert was granted an honorary degree at SCSU, one of 48 he has received over the years. He was NBC's Washington Bureau Chief and Moderator of Meet the Press, the longest running show in the history of TV. He has interviewed every major figure on the political scene.

Among the numerous awards he has received are an Emmy for his coverage on the funeral of Ronald Reagan and the Radio and Television Correspondents' highest honor, the Joan S. Barone Award, and the Annenberg Center's Walter Cronkite Award for interviews with George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000.

In 2008, Time magazine named Russert one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Being interviewed by him is considered part of a presidential candidate's process to being elected.

He was "one of the premier political journalists and analysts of his time," said Tom Brokaw, the former longtime anchor of NBC Nightly News, when he announced Russert's death on Friday afternoon. "This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice."


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About the Author

Jack Greenberg is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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