I just read Peter Gammons' column from this past weekend on remembering Tim Russert and the promise of fair and reasoned journalism. It's an excellent read:
Russert was a study for all of us who dabble in journalism, and I think it was Pat Buchanan who paid him the supreme compliment by saying that he never really knew Russert's political beliefs. Russert loved what he covered, and he loved people, and for those of us who believe that we have the right to like our subjects but do not have the right to dislike any of them, he defined fairness. He didn't scream. He didn't interrupt. He allowed those people he interviewed to speak their minds, and then he asked the appropriate questions, and he did so with respect and dignity, and knew too much to argue or to judge. Somehow he let his subjects know that this was all professional, neither personal nor agenda driven.
In the complex mediasphere today, we have commentators who believe there is nothing human about those who play games or make decisions. We have electronic and print shock jocks who revel in the misanthropic, passing judgment on men like Milton Bradley without any knowledge about them. Tim Russert never made himself the story; he knew his subjects were the story, and because he took so much joy in listening to those subjects -- such a phenomenal interview last month with Barbara Walters -- he allowed us to open the door to their lives and minds.
We don't need shrieking "opinions" or ridicule or self-promoting shtick; we need more of what Tim Russert brought to journalism and our business. We don't need "gotcha" television or point-counterpoint on Michael Vick or Barack Obama's former minister.
Russert knew where the bodies were buried -- he knew people -- and he knew few of us have to be reminded of our failures; we have not forgotten them. I'm proud to know Milton Bradley; when I was sick two years ago, his e-mail messages were thoughtful, often brilliant, emotional, sincere.
Russert would have wanted to know who Milton Bradley really is, and how hard he fights the demons inside himself, how much respect he carries among teammates.
All of us should go to the videotape and understand why George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Cheney and Tom Daschle and almost everyone respected him. It's all right to be fair and reasoned. It's all right to listen to President Bush, not lecture him. It's all right to like the people who run our country and to try to understand how they think; someone once accused George Will of knowing his subjects, to which Will replied, "we should know and understand why politicians think and do what they think and do."
Opinions have become termites. Those who actually make decisions and are entrusted with decisions know that backseat drivers don't know the feel of the wheel but they sure know how to fuss, and Russert allowed us to ask why the driver took the right fork in the woods.
We all learned a lot from the man. I know Ryan Zimmerman made him a very happy man when he hit his walkoff home run on Opening Night, but then, Tim Russert was happy just being there.
One of our regular readers here has started an online petition to honor the memory of Buffalo's favorite son, Tim Russert. If you're interested in seeing him added to the Buffao Bills Walls of Fame, you can sign that petition right here.