It’s hard for me to decide which Tim Russert story says the most about the man.
He came from a working class family in South Buffalo.
Tim’s dad ‘Big Russ’ is a WWII vet and worked two jobs to raise his family. He started his city career on the back of a sanitation truck, then to driver and retired as foreman.
Russert of course wrote about his dad in the best selling “Big Russ and Me”.
Tim spent time on the back of those trash trucks too. Four summers in fact, earning the money to get through college.
On the final day as a city employee Tim pulled off the gloves, hat and shirt he wore while collecting garbage. He then threw them into the truck’s compactor, pulled the lever and said “I’m never coming back”.
Hard work did not drive him from the city job. Desire for a better life did.
To hear his colleagues describe him, Tim was the hardest working man in the news business.
The hard work he learned in Buffalo served him during his whole career.
Preparation was Tim Russert’s hallmark.
Tim put a ton of preparation into everything.
He even did preparation for the preparation as he did when named host of Meet The Press.
Tim met with Lawrence Spivak a former host.
“What is it about this show? Our show, that makes it work” Tim asked?
Spivak answered, “know your guests and their positions thoroughly, then take the opposite position”.
It seems so simple.
For each one hour show Russert did enough preparation for a three hour show.
Most of today’s TV moderators are really talk show hosts and should not be mistaken for journalists.
Russert was different because he wasn’t caught up in being a star.
And yet this working class kid from Buffalo became TV news biggest star because he let the content, questions and answers do the work.
In a funny way news reporting is a little like collecting trash.
We’ll miss Tim because he helped us sort through that trash.