"Get the widow on the set
We need dirty laundry."
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Strange to start out a blog about the passing of my favorite on-air newsperson, Tim Russert, with that excerpt from Don Henley's acerbic song, "Dirty Laundry." More on that later.
I was as upset by Russert's sudden passing as any person who had only met him once but had watched and enjoyed him for years could be. What was there not to like and admire about Tim Russert? Smart. Lawyerly in his approach. Devoted son, husband, father. Hard worker. The kind of guy you could sit down with and talk about anything over lunch, or perhaps go to
There may be those who will say that NBC went over-board in its coverage or the reaction to his death. I am not one of them. To hear the heart-felt reminiscences of those members of his extended family, was to understand even more deeply what a terrific guy he was and what a loss we had suffered. Perhaps no one brought that across any better that Andrea Mitchell, who confessed that other than Russert, only her father called her "Mitch."
Luckily there was no other major news during that Friday or the weekend that followed, so that NBC could devote so much of its newstime and prime time to him. That is, if you don't include the devastating and deadly floods in the Midwest (who needs to see one more news reporter in hip waders, trying to give us some "perspective" on just how bad the flooding really is?) and perhaps some casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are the kinds of personal tragedies that so often get played out on network news.
My only beef with all of the coverage is this:
During it all, you never saw one camera crew staked outside the
Why not? Because it was a death in the family -- the family of the news media. And everyone treats their families diifferently than they treat strangers.
Yes, it could be argued that a statement from the family wasn't "necessary," since there were so many other people -- even Ethel Kennedy, landing at
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad there were no phalanxes of cameras outside the Russert residence. But why doesn't every family get shown this kind of respect when they have suffered an unspeakable loss?
I realize that I'm writing this in a culture in which the "Jerry Springer" show thrived and in which TV shows that consist only of footage of people doing incredibly stupid, dangerous and injurious things to themselves are popular. I also understand the basic human urge to rubber-neck at the scene of a motor vehicle accident, creating the very real possibility of causing yet other accidents.
But why doesn't every family deserve the space to grieve in private, without feeling the need to come forth and feed the cameras and the reporters what they want?
Several years ago, a Boeing 737 jetliner crashed in
But if NBC and the other news media can show this kind of respect when dealing with the death of one of their own, why can't they do so with everyone else? The answer is: we (the audience) won't let them, I suppose.
And what about Don Henley's song, written to protest the unfair treatment he felt he had received at the hands of the media, in dealing with accusations of misconduct on his part which were later dismissed in court? In the case of Time Russert’s death, no one was scrambling to "get the widow on the set." Oh, if only that could happen more often.