I wear many hats during office hours, though none of them are straight-brimmed and make me look like a shortbus mongoloid child. But among my numerous disparate responsibilities, my favorite involves "researching the shit out of shit."
I know it seems foreign in the Era of Broadband Intertubes, but there really is nothing like tracking down an unGoogleable answer. Internet sleuthing is fun. But sleuthing in general is priceless, be it searching through online or offline databases, calling human after human at bureaucratic departments or, wait for it, visiting the public library. It's not quite the do-it-yourselfedness of auto mechanics or home improvement, but rifling through data and archived material or finding the perfect source is the DIY of information. The answers are always out there. Sometimes it's up to you, not a search engine, to go and find them.
And fact-finding is what I always loved about Tim Russert. That's why he'll be missed.
Everybody's entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts (unless they're in Congress, heyooo!). It's this old adage that Russert proved to be true. He'd dig deep through the archives and, in the case of so many politicians, find at least one "Gotcha" quotation to throw right back in one of their two faces, no matter which side of the aisle on which they sit.
He never wore his partisanship on his sleeve, only his integrity as a journalist. Cable news these days is excruciatingly depressing -- anchors are either horribly misinformed, unbelievably stupid or bloviating schmucks. Russert was the antithesis of all three. He was prepared, smart and humble in the face of a business that increasingly relied on nonsense for ratings.
In 2004, Russert said in an interview: "Lawrence Spivak, who founded "Meet the Press" 57 years ago, said, 'Learn as much as you can about your guest and his or her position on the issue. Take the other side. Be persistent, but be polite.' And I try not to berate people. I don't want to make them sympathetic. But sometimes facts are important." He made Spivak's advice work like nobody else in the television news business.
I don't know who'll go on to host Meet The Press. (I'm guessing it'll be Andrea Mitchell and you'll hear "first woman to blah blah blah" a whole bunch.) But I can't picture anybody bringing the level of professionalism that Russert brought to the broadcast and to the industry. You'll notice I don't write all that many serious posts, but this is a man that deserves a somber tribute. Timmy!
And while we're talkin' newsmen, check out this apparently punctuation challenged news anchor. Attaboy!