Friday, June 13, 2008

Too Bad About Tim Russert, but . . .

We at RSI would like to extend our sympathies to Tim Russert's family, friends, and co-workers. The sudden death of a loved one is an extremely hard thing.

But I wonder if Tim Russert really was quite the titan of American politics and society that the instant eulogies say, or if his death really is 'A Loss for the Entire Nation' as claimed by the MSNBC headline.

Obviously, Tim Russert was a leading figure in the mainstream news media and I understand the shock and grief among his media friends and co-workers.

But there is also broad agreement that the news media is an unsatisfactory institution in a state of permanent decline.

And in many ways, Tim Russert embodied the worst features of the contemporary media and there's a long list of worst features. Russert was a big part of the whole media coziness with political elites, relentless focus on process and horserace stories, and obsession with celebrity over the substance of political issues.

Russert had a reputation as a tough interviewer, but his whole technique was to spring little gotcha questions on the people he interviewed. What did any of those interrogations accomplish anyway?

Certainly, the Bush administration thought that Russert was easily gamed.

Likewise, Russert was NBC's lead political analyst, but I can't remember reading of him ever saying anything that was very thought-provoking, memorable, or significant. If anything Russert seemed to embrace the least thought-provoking of the conventional wisdom.

Because Tim Russert managed to become a celebrity himself, he came to embody television news media as a whole.

But was serving as a living embodiment of television news such a great thing?


Anonymous said...

Your criticism is correct, but perhaps its delivery is a bit ill-timed. A little cold-sounding, eh?

And I doubt if anyone will ever ask you to write a eulogy!

With that said....overall, I like your blogging

Ric Caric said...

Thanks for the kind words. I had mixed feelings about the post on Russert, but ultimately decided that something had to be said about the limitations of his journalism.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I never liked Meet the Press that much. You're right about Russert tending to play the 'gotcha' game.

As much as I dislike McCain, Russert made McCain look like an idiot by asking McCain to respond to a statement that was critical of war and nation-building. Then after McCain gave his Iraq defense, Russert said that the statement was made by McCain himself in 1993! It was a speech given by McCain against Somolia. Basically he tricked McCain into criticizing his own words. Russert's face had a big smile like he'd nailed McCain to the wall. Not exactly political discourse at its most elevated

Ric Caric said...

Yeah, and that was pretty much all Russert wanted to accomplish.

One of the things that's interesting about the mainstream media is that people like Glenn Greenwald, Josh Marshall, and Jane Hamsher are starting to have an impact.

I'm wondering if there might be a little bit of a return to substance in the near future.

It will be interesting to see how NBC and MSNBC change their line-ups in the wake of Russert's death. Many of the most recent mainstream media hirings have looked like an effort to recruit every available right-winger. Hopefully, that will change.