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Tim Russert

Matt Schudel

You tend to get a little jaded in this business, and it takes a lot to shock an obit writer. But yesterday afternoon, when we got word that Tim Russert had died, we -- and the entire staff of the Post -- were in complete shock and disbelief.

The paper quickly mobilized, though, and Pat Sullivan of the Obits Desk was asked to contribute background information on Russert's early life for Howard Kurtz's Page 1 obituary.

Sometimes we obituary writers resent being "big-footed" on stories, but in this case Howie was the perfect person for the job -- no one knows Washington journalism better, and in 2004 he wrote the definitive profile of Russert for the Post magazine. Tom Shales, who has known Russert for years and ran into him at the airport last week, wrote a touching and deeply informed appreciation for Style.

People throughout the newsroom were both hushed and animated when word spread about Russert's unexpected death from a heart attack. Our editor, Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb, was among the first to find out, and she turned around in her chair to ask who wanted to work on the obit. A colleague from another desk of the paper called in from vacation to ask me how we were handling the story. He mentioned that he had taken a class he teaches to the set of "Meet the Press," and Russert could not have been more gracious with the awestruck students.

Finally, I want to pass along something I saw from across the newsroom yesterday. Howard Kurtz appeared live on TV to discuss Russert's life and work. (We have a small studio in the newsroom for reporters to make comments about the news.) The second Howie was off the air, he sprinted back to his desk on the other side the newsroom to continue working on his obituary for the paper. That may be the ultimate tribute from one newsman to another.

By Matt Schudel  |  June 14, 2008; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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I'm sorry Tim died He was once almost great, but in his waning years, he had a strong personal agenda. No reporter should have any agenda. He led the NBC/MSNBC political team to comical disrepute as they abused the news to help Obama and hurt Clinton. It changed the election in our democracy, an appalling accomplishment. Russert seemed to lose his compass after the objective Tom Brokaw retired. Perhaps Tom should anchor or decide the future of Meet the Press. The NBC/MSNBC political team is unfit.

Public comments on this ran for the last 24 hours in the first Washington Post story at

Posted by: rhreader | June 14, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Objective journalism, didn't Tim personify this? He was a true professional and a decent person and for anyone to come out now and say he had an agenda is really just obsene and completely inappropriate at this time. Regardless of what anyone thinks of msnbc, Mr. Russert was a guiding light for others in the profession, his competitors even say so. Who can argue with that?

Posted by: margotken | June 14, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

This is why I subscribe to this blog. Great story about a great story, albeit one that we all wish couldn't have been told for thirty years.

Posted by: Charlene | June 15, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Something happens to me when I let someone in my bedroom each Sunday morning. That someone was Tim Russert who I spent every Sunday morning with for years.

He was a source of answers and understanding for me on national politics ... a quagmire that he lassoed in well.

Without knowing him personally, I had a great loyalty to his knowledge, his persona, and his gentility which came from those NBC studios to my Sunday morning routine.

That happens.

He was wise beyond his years while still keeping that sense of childlike wonder. You could see that wonder when he had that white board in his hand.

I will miss him greatly.


You were a great man.

Posted by: Jeanie in Houston | June 16, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

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