June 14, 2008
Let me say up front I don’t believe I ever watched a full episode of Meet the Press while Tim Russert was the moderator. I did catch a few snippets and some excepts over the years. I am so old I remember Meet the Press with Lawrence Spivak. My thoughts are with his family in their time of loss. Being only two days younger than Mr. Russert I am again faced with that ruthless fact of life, our fragile mortality.
The current homilies to Mr. Russert show him as a relentless researcher and a good civic-minded family man. The professional performance of Mr. Russert brings to mind that some career strengths, e.g. President Carter, that are not well suited to their position. Just as the nuclear engineering mind of President Carter was not optimal for leading the American people in the malaise of the Post Viet Nam era, the legal training of Mr. Russert missed a critical aspect of the journalism trade. The preparation technique of vigorously researching both sides of legal case leads the journalist to present both sides of the news as plausible, despite the fact that there is no acceptable side in favor of torture or corruption. As a former Democratic staffer Mr. Russert may have felt the need to show absolute balance, to never let his personal political beliefs hint to the viewer that he was biased. Mr. Russert is lauded for asking the tough questions to those in power. The problem as I see it is that when he allowed the interviewee in response to spin or bolster their case he did not then forcefully point out they were wrong and that their defense was based on their own personal ego and enrichment. As an NBC News Vice President Mr. Russert certainly knew that if he rubbed the comfortable noses in the raw truth, they would avoid appearing again, thus risking the ratings competition. The MSM struggles to be affable to both sides to avoid offending known perpetrators of malfeasance to maintain their precious access. Promoting the story of McCain the maverick may make good business sense but it betrays the journalists’ pursuit and publication of the truth.