Tim Russert’s death is shocking and tragic. He was one of the most influential journalists in this town, if not the most. Because of him, Meet the Press was pretty much required viewing in Washington — and hopefully in parts outside the Beltway.
I knew him but not well. He belonged to the Gridiron Club, a group of Washington-based journalists that exists solely to put on an annual political spoof. In fact, he was the first broadcast journalist to be admitted to the club (in 2005), which until then, had only allowed newspaper and wire service reporters (the club dates to 1885).
His schedule didn’t allow him to make a lot of the meetings or show rehearsals, but when he was there, he was always friendly and engaging. And he was always game to deliver the lines that had been written for him. He’ll be missed.
But he’ll be missed the most at the helm of his show and on MSNBC’s political coverage.
I went to the NBC studio a couple of times to watch him tape Meet the Press, the last time in 2004 when Tom Coburn and Brad Carson were running for the U.S. Senate seat and they appeared with him.
Russert used a lot of the stories that had been generated by local media to pin Carson and Coburn down on issues. He was that day, as he typically was, tough but fair. Which in my mind is the highest compliment you can pay a journalist.