WASHINGTON (AP) — Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press" and its Washington bureau chief collapsed and died at work Friday after suffering an apparent heart attack. He was 58 Russert, of Buffalo, N.Y., took the helm of the Sunday news show in December 1991 and turned it into the most widely watched program of its type in the nation. His signature trait there was an unrelenting style of questioning, sparing none of the politicians, business giants and even sports figures who appeared on his show.
Russert, 58, collapsed while recording voiceovers for his Sunday morning interview program, NBC reported. He was initially reported to have suffered a heart attack while working in his office on Washington's Nebraska Avenue, but the network said later only that he was "stricken at the bureau" and subsequently died. Further details were not immediately available.
Russert served as NBC's Washington bureau chief and the host of "Meet the Press," the top-rated Sunday talk show, which had an enormous influence on politics and was marked by his aggressive style of interrogation. As a frequent commentator on the "Today" show, "NBC Nightly News" and other shows, Russert wielded such clout that when he declared that Sen. Barack Obama had wrapped up the Democratic nomination last month, his pronouncement was treated as a news event in itself.
Russert's television career was marked by a voracious appetite for politics and a shrewd understanding of how politicians interact with the media. He also wrote a book about his father, titled "Big Russ and Me." Last week, he moved Big Russ to a nursing facility.
Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw gave MSNBC viewers the news of Russert's death at 3:40 p.m. (GNB Note: Video available at Washington Post.)
Brokaw said Russert had just returned from a family trip to Italy with his wife, writer Maureen Orth. They were celebrating the graduation of their son, Luke, from Boston College this spring, Brokaw said.
Russert served as host of "Meet the Press" longer than any other person and was "one of the premier political analysts and journalists of his time," Brokaw said. He began hosting "Meet the Press" in 1991.
Tributes to Russert began pouring in as news of his death circulated.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said: "Tim was a warm and gracious family man with a great zest for life and an unsurpassed passion for his work. His rise from working-class roots to become a well-respected leader in political journalism is an inspiration to many. Tim asked the tough questions the right way and was the best in the business at keeping his interview subjects honest."
Russert was born May 7, 1950, in Buffalo, N.Y., the son of Irish American parents. His father was a World War II veteran who worked two blue-collar jobs while raising four children in a working-class neighborhood in South Buffalo. Raised as a staunch Roman Catholic, Russert attended Buffalo's Jesuit Canisius High School and went on to study law at Cleveland State University.
He got his start in New York Democratic politics, working on the political campaigns of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Gov. Mario Cuomo. He served as chief of staff to Moynihan from 1977 to 1982 and was a counselor in Cuomo's Albany office from 1983 to 1984.
Russert was hired by NBC's Washington bureau in 1984 and became the network's Washington bureau chief four years later.
Tim Russert speaks to the crowd during the Democratic presidential debate
between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama in Cleveland on February 26, 2008.
photo Mark Duncan/AP.
I really like what Jane Hamsher says in her obit.
Dave Winer said that "the Internet destabilizes every hierarchy it contacts." Russert stood as a symbol of an institutional journalistic hierarchy for many of us, and bloggers right and left railed against him mightily. He took arrows on behalf of many who practiced the journalism of his era, and stood his ground.
He is survived by his father, who is in his late 80s. Condolences to all his friends and family.
In addition to his father, Russert is also survived by Maureen Orth (his wife), and a college-aged son.
Traditional journalists (broadcast and print) have not and can not and the vast majority of them will never successfully meet the opportunity (to them it's a threat; not even rising to the level of a challenge, let alone an opportunity) of the Internet.
They simply don't get it.
Russert was no exception.
The question I wonder about is, was Russert the way he was because he simply had too much invested in defending the media and traditions in which he was so successful, or was he the way he was because he was that way?
My guess -- with Russert (I'd say the opposite for O'Reilly) -- is the former. Which is one of the nicest assessments I have to say about Russert. It means he could have, might have, broken free.
Now we'll never know.
My condolences to his family.
Updated 8:10 PM.
Driftglass' obit. *smiles*