A few random thoughts on the death of Tim Russert--which seems like a sort of psychological blotter on the past, present and future of television news:
1. It was said in THE NEW YORK TIMES that Russert didn't often appear on MSNBC, apparently to preserve his status as an Eminence of NBC News. So the irony of MSNBC turning into the Tim Russert Channel over the weekend--instead of the usual reruns of convict documentaries and repurposed DEADLINE episodes--must be noted here.
2. A few minutes ago, I caught some of a 2006 LARRY KING LIVE rerun where Russert was offering a rationale of sorts for the Butch administration deciding to go to war in Iraq. Yes, like Ted Koppel, Russert could ask "tough" questions. But Russert could also, like Koppel, be too deferential to power; telling the Official Story is still paramount in major network news.
3. Let's face it--current NBC News President Steve Capus qualifies as a obnoxious pig for allowing the V-Tech killer's self-created I've-got-guns press-kit to hit the nation's airwaves a year ago. And perhaps the Old Guard of NBC News--Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell, et al....were partially mourning Russert's death because they can see more budget cuts and tabloidization of the news department in future months. And Steve Capus will undoubtedly oink his agreement with what his masters at NBCUniversal order up.
4. Russert's passing also opened a window into the corporate culture of NBC's news department. Apparently, to be truly eminent at 30 Rock, one has to persist in a blinkered belief that America is almost totally white and longing for reruns of the do-as-you're-told era of Truman and Eisenhower. And it doesn't hurt to emulate the posing-for-a-monument Tom Brokaw and write intended-as-bestselling books about shared Values which deify an America of the distant past. And, as has often happened in recent years, expect the racial/religious/sexual diversity and shared Values of today's America to be ignored by network news while it goes on doing the same old things in the same old ways.
Update (7/9/08): Here's an opinion by journalist Lewis Lapham which concurs a bit with what I've written above: