NBC newsman Tim Russert died of a massive heart attack on Friday and, ever since his untimely death at age 58, MSNBC has been “All Tim’s Death, All The Time.”  We all loved Tim, but enough is enough.

As I previously wrote in — Private Life, Public Death: The Perils of Inappropriate Veneration — when the famous are celebrated more in their deaths than they deserved in their lives, we become suspicious.

The never-ending coverage of Russert’s death on MSNBC, now in its fourth day, has moved from touching memory and into vulgar memento.

When a media person dies, that death is given fuller value and ongoing coverage than “ordinary” people that die… like firefighters, soldiers and cops… and it isn’t right and it shouldn’t be tolerated.  Fame alone doesn’t make one life more valuable than another.

Why is Tim Russert’s death more important than any other death over the last four days?

Did MSNBC have nothing else to report other than “Tim is still dead and we all still miss him.”
MSNBC became a sick joke over the weekend — and that poisonous laughter is carrying over into today.

How many times do we have to hear from Russert’s co-workers about what a great guy he was and how wonderful he was as a boss?  Once is enough.  We certainly don’t need that told and re-told for four days because it looks like NBC is trying too hard to convince us of something that requires a mega-media browbeating instead of simple solitude.

Having four solid days of “how to recognize a heart attack and live to tell about it” would’ve been a better service for the rest of us that might have actually done some good.  The “Russert is Dead” breast-thumping by the NCB staff merely made Tim less likable to the rest of us.

Incredibly, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell said this morning on air that “Tim was like a parish priest…”

I can’t help but believe that Tim Russert, if he were alive today, would be furiously insulted to be likened to a “parish priest” because he was a good and faithful Catholic, and to be falsely promoted to a status that wasn’t earned or vetted would not have been tolerated.

I guess when you run out of real things to say about a dead guy, you start making things up to help make him more than he was — or more than ever wanted to be — in real life.

I’m sure MSNBC will soon provide expert analysis verifying for us just how “Christ-like” Tim was in his salvation of the network news.

The rumor — that I’m starting here today, inspired by NBC’s maudlin celebration — of Tim turning a cup of Pepsi and a single Fritos corn chip into wine and bread to feed a late-working, but hard-working and ravenous, news staff… will probably be the focus of an upcoming “NBC Dateline” special.

As a real newsman, I’m sure Tim Russert would’ve killed this celebration of himself an hour after the news of his demise as passed and, for that reason alone, I miss the guy.

15 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    I remember Tim Russert on NBC and really sorry to hear this.
    But you are right – “Fame alone doesn’t make one life more valuable than another”.
    That’s what happens though – in reality.
    The example of “Perish priest” is funny; it just shows how far this “fillers” can be stretched to make stories up.
    I wonder why no one protested!

  2. Hi Katha!
    Yes, fame is everywhere — but the news is supposed to be above it all and, in some small way, lead us in the right direction. There was nothing good coming out of MSNBC/NBC over the weekend except for “how sad we are” stories… as if the staff suffering is the most important thing in the world and more precious than, say, the price of gas, the Iraq war or the latest administration peril.
    The priest comment was made this morning around 7:30am my time — so there hasn’t been much chance to protest — but I think most people just knowingly nodded their head in agreement without considering the veracity of the statement and the horror that Russert would’ve felt as a faithful and extremely devout Roman Catholic.

  3. Actually David, “Mourning” sells.
    It sounds extremely crude, but probably we are pre programmed to relish the details of “personal suffering”…
    Or else, why overkill this?

  4. I think they’re overkilling it, Katha, because to them — Tim was their world — while to the rest of us he was just a good guy who did the news.
    It is that self-focusing that plagues so many mainstream media outlets today. They think the world revolves around them — that they set the agenda of what is and is not important, and if Tim is important to them, then he must have the same value for us… but he does not.
    The media are supposed to always be outside the world and looking in so they may try to provide us order to give us truth, context, and factual submissions of opinion and news reporting.

  5. They could just put up a page on the web and have people go there. But that wouldn’t let them say how great he was and how great they are for knowing him. Vicious circle.

  6. I think they do have an online tribute, too, Karvain — but it isn’t enough! They need to be on the air to have their “sorrow” repeatedly expressed on the air over and over and over again…

  7. You are right David; any loss is sad – but trying to make the loss of a “close knit group” public is a bit too much for everybody.

  8. Katha —
    I can understand and value group mourning in public… for an hour… but not over 72 hours in a row in a perpetual sorrow machine that replaces all my favorite shows! SMILE!
    When you change channels to get away from their crying — and then you later return to watch your show only to find them still sniffling over Tim’s death — it has the odd effect of making you start to resent Tim for dying and then hating them even more for not getting on with it and letting him be dead, and giving the rest of the world access to OUR SHOWS again!

  9. I respected Tim Russert to a great extent but I have to agree with you. I think perhaps because he was in the business of reporting the news, the various news organizations feel it as a loss more than they feel less immediate losses, like the loss of a police officer or kitten rescuing fire fighter.

  10. Hi Gordon!
    Yes, if we respect Tim Russert in death, then we should respect what he stood for in life: Moderation, proper perspective and a gracious generosity. We are seeing quite the opposite on MSBNC since his untimely death and it’s all being done in his name. Shameful!
    The on air mourning won’t end before Wednesday when he’s given a wake at the Kennedy Center or something like that… so I’ve sworn off MSNBC as my news source for the next week. I’m with the radio and CNN now.
    I’m not the only one complaining about the over-anxious Russert coverage:
    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_tv_tvblog/2008/06/lessons-of-the.html
    I just hope Tom Brokaw has it written into his will that NBC is not allowed to celebrate his life in death for more than one broadcast hour on a single network. That would be a great, meaningful, final, gift to us all.

  11. David!
    i remember when we used to have just one state-owned television channel, sometimes a whole week of programming would be replaced by eulogies and mournful dirges in the memory of the death of some member or even ex-member of the parliament!
    it’s sad that more often than not, great people are remembered just because they were great and the reason why were great in the first place is forgotten. we end up worshipping them when instead all they would really want is for us to be like them.

  12. In a mainstream and “free” capitalist society, Dananjay, it is fascinating how and who we choose to venerate on television in the USA. We should be celebrating the ordinary worker but we often fail and only acknowledge the mediocre famous.

  13. I prefer they create a “Browkaw Channel” exclusively for their sorrow so the rest of us can avoid it!
    Somehow, I feel when Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite finally kick it, the broadcast world will hardly take note. CBS will barely even mention their demise…