I wrote the following for Variety, but wanted to share with my blog readers. I've been watching the coverage of Tim Russert's death all weekend and it leaves me just absolutely heartbroken.
Life can be so freakin' fleeting.
I know I'm supposed to be a hardened journalist and not let news — both good and bad — affect me, but I can't help but feel devasted by the sudden and tragic loss of Tim Russert (pictured with his wife, writer Maureen Orth, and son Luke, who just graduated Boston College), who died at only 58 years old.
There's an old adage that we feel a special connection to people we see on television all the time. Much more so than in film, as those on TV are in our living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and everywhere else we watch.
And even more than that, Russert was on in the mornings on the "Today" show, in the afternoons occasionally as a political analyst on MSNBC, in the evenings on "Nightly News With Brian Williams" and then Saturdays on his conversational talkshow and, of course, the political big daddy, "Meet the Press" on every Sunday ayem.
Russert was the booming political voice of NBC, and I'll always remember him with his dry erase board on election night in 2000, telling everyone how important Florida was going to be in determing whether Al Gore or George W. Bush would be president. "Florida, Florida, Florida" he reiterated over and over again. And was he ever right.
Just an hour before I heard the news Friday, I received my weekly email blast from NBC, which lists the guests on this Sunday's edition of "Meet the Press." And last night I set my Tivo for "Tim Russert," which I watch every Saturday. Tivo never disclosed who the guests were on his talkshow, so it was always a surprise if he'd be chatting up a public figure hawking a book -- Barbara Walters and Steve Martin were recent guests -- or a couple of politicos trying to get a sense of the presidential race.
Last week on "Meet the Press," Russell had what he called the "NBC political dream team" -- folks such as Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory, Chuck Todd and others -- figuring out what Obama's ascension as the Democratic presidential nominee meant, and where does Hillary go from here. He had such enthusiam for this stuff. His arms would wave, his voice would fill the room and full-throated discussions would ensue.
And then there was the family side of him. His first book, "Big Russ and Me," about his relationship with his father, and their relationship with Buffalo, N.Y., was a bestseller, and his affection for Dad was out there for all the world to appreciate.
His second tome, "Wisdom of Our Fathers," was also an homage to family, and to those men — sometimes quiet, sometimes boisterous — who took care of their wives and children, sometimes under trying circumstances, in the best way they knew how.
I interviewed Russert several years ago. He was at work, at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C., in the middle of a crazy news day, but took time to talk about his job, life and what it meant to be a political journalist. That conversation takes on added meaning to me now.
We'll elect another president in November, and there will be plenty of discussion of all things politics between now and then, but this election just won't be the same. Can't be without Russert.
I'm already missing the dry erase board.