The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Monday, June 16, 2008

Glorious Exits

Tim Russert died this past Friday. In spite of his hard work and the fact that he'd just commenced his 58th year of life, he looked pretty good. His death did not have the impact on me that some other journalists' had. But his tributes and memorials collect the same stories as his predecessors about being in the trenches, collecting the story that could not have been were it not for his/her conviction, the gripping interviews, attention to high journalistic standards, and so on.

I admired Tim Russert's skills as a journalist, TV moderator, speaker, and all the other attributes that went with his talents. But for the breadth of experience and talents, for the constant push toward a higher standard and the setting of new goals, for his desire to expand and increase the desire to know on the part of the information-consuming public, I still admire people such as Peter Jennings, and the legions of other journalist legends such as Walter Cronkite, Frank Reynolds, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, to name a few.

Knowing his ailment as intimately as I do, it is quite easy to identify with the footage his brain recorded in those last minutes, the thoughts and concerns about what he was doing and how to keep the flow of the work product moving to fruition. I know these things because Russert and I had the same standards. No matter what else, the product needs to be delivered. No matter what's happening, the public deserves to be as informed and educated as possible so that they are not making blind decisions.

Russert was also a journalist who stood his ground when he felt he was right about a particular slant. How well I remember the email that was sent to both his station (KNBC) as well as one of his competitors (KABC) that threatened to no longer watch his show if he continued to plunge viewers into yet another hour of Clinton horror reportage rather than cover the multifoliate issues impacting the U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and more. Russert chose to continue the Clinton coverage while his competitors re-integrated the political news of many perspectives back into their Sunday programming. It was his right to make the decision and it showed that he was a journalist who did not bend to pressure for the sake of pressure.

But the thing that most makes me want to stand and salute this excellent journalist is the one that many will take for granted. He died in one of the most glorious ways possible. He died while fully engaged in his greatest passion -- doing his work. How many of us will be able to say we died with a smile on our face because we were doing what we enjoyed most -- our work? That is definitely a glorious exit.