19 June 2008

"Let Us All Go Get'Em"

I missed the televised memorial service of Tim Russert yesterday on MSNBC®, and was so exhausted from work and painting around the house that I then missed the rebroadcast of it when it re-aired late last night. However...and thank heavens for the age we live in...video highlights of the ceremony can be found here (link goes to The Huffington Post, and you can choose which speakers you choose to watch, although all are excellent and unique in their own way).

However, Keith Olbermann (who did not give an eulogy at the Kennedy Center but who worked extensively with Russert recently during political coverage and who clearly had great respect for the 'Boy from Buffalo') also did a lovely tribute to him last night on "Countdown". Whereas Olbermann can be a blustering, sarcastic and riled-up 'junior' at times, Russert was the time-tested, all-knowing and rational 'senior' anchor...and they made a tremendous ying and yang duo of political coverage. For the last two nights at least, Olbermann has been fighting back tears when talking about the late, great Tim Russert...almost adrift at times, even. Tonight's final tribute is no exception...but the end of this tape is about as heartfelt a goodbye as it gets.

The entire NBC® news team, Olbermann included, clearly has been in a state of public shock ever since last Friday's tragic announcement. In a more genteel time, there would be allowed a respectable time for mourning...but this is the world of 24/7 news, where the ratings are king and you're only as good as your last Nielsen ratings score. No matter the opinion if whether this outpouring of grief is good/acceptable television or not, my heart aches for such a visibly pained and tortured group of professionals. In a way, they are stuck in a looping cycle of sorrow...a cycle they are desperate to leave, yet in a loop that regurgitates this agony for them until some 'bigger' story comes along. Broadcast journalism has never been for the faint of nerves, but these past few days it's also renewed itself as a field not for the faint of heart. The entire NBC® news family will regain their heading and steady the wheel soon enough, for no reason more than those who watched Russert all of these years know he would demand it no other way (and Russert was involved in many different capacities across many of the NBC® networks). But for now, please allow them enough time to let them (and us) respect the loss we all must now accept. The loss to that organization is a very large one, indeed.

Then, as Mr. Russert's wonderful (and charmingly lookalike) son, Luke, says in the taped eulogy above, "let us all go get'em." Life is short, people: live it while, and as best, you can.

A private prayer and note to Mr. Russert: Those call center reps, like myself, who got lucky enough to answer your reservation phone calls ...(my last one was in 2002, I think...I remember asking you what happened to the dry erase board from Election 2000; and you said it had been donated to one of the Smithsonians)...always thought you were a really nice, down-to-earth, and super patient, man. Still chuckle a bit about how you made the plans yourself, and not have an assistant do it instead. You were a joy to have as a customer, absolutely no attitude or outrageous demands at all. I know it meant a lot that you respected us enough to thank us by name whenever the call was concluded. Clearly what we heard on the other end of the line was the way you were all the time, and what a nice way to be, what a wonderful way to live. For all that and more, Mr. Russert, I thank you and know you're now resting in peace.

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