As befits, I suppose, a man identified as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by a national newsmagazine, the television news establishment has accorded Tim Russert coverage fit for a mighty statesman or a movie star. It makes one wonder whether CBS went so gaga on Edward R. Murrow's demise in 1965, though we can be certain they'll try to top it when Walter Cronkite dies. It's the ideal story for our narcissistic media, since they can film themselves remembering and analyzing and they don't have to report on actual news. I concede that the NBC people might not feel like real reporting right away, and I grant that no one is crying on air, but I fear that in their grief some perspective has been lost.
Without intending to insult the bereaved, honesty requires me to say that I won't regret Russert's departure from public life. Review my posts from the early primary season and you'll see my frustration with the "gotcha" style of interviewing perfected by him. I wanted to see the candidates talk about their plans for the future of this country, not account for possibly embarrassing statements of the past or present peers' critical words. Now I see that Russert was admired for just this approach to interviewing, not necessarily on substance but because he dealt equally with both major parties. But for anyone as dissatisfied as I am with the American Bipolarchy, it's no excuse for Russert's style that he dealt fairly within the two-party system. As a reporter and analyst he was comparatively unobjectionable. While I elect to play the devil's advocate tonight, I don't mean to celebrate his death. First, Russert did nothing close to what would warrant such treatment. Second, there'd be little to celebrate, since whoever replaces him is likely to do things exactly the same way.