Russert Redux, Part II

The criticism of the coverage of Tim Russert's death was immediate and almost universally negative. From the Orlando Sentinel to The New York Times to Slate, the media was blasted for what TV Newser called " ... an orgy of mourning."

Oh, lighten up!

I'll admit: reading about the death of Tim Russert the Wednesday after it happened on the Oklahoma link on my home page seemed excessive--considering he's from Buffalo ... New York--but it wasn't exactly the end of journalism, either. (A string of flag thefts in Del City also made the cut.)

  Even when the coverage began to resemble that of a fallen head of state, it felt right (Fox did a special report on heart attacks), as this was the quintessential Inside Baseball story: the U.S. Open for The Golf Channel; the Iowa floods for the Weather Channel. On whom else was the media going to fixate that weekend ... George Bush and his annual chilly reception in Europe?



Russert, a made guy (think Tom Hagen), was generally loved, admired and a ubiquitous figure.

Moreover, as Dennis Levine said, justifying insider trading: "If you work in a deli, you get to take home some salami every night."

The media was like a giant New York delicatessen after Russert's death. And it lost one of the best sandwich makers on the line.

Give it a break.

What the criticism of the extended obituary said about the nature and longevity of a news story, though, does have some merit. If not for 9/11, who knows how long we would have heard about Gary Condit and Chandra Levy? In this case, if Russert's death warranted continuous coverage until his Wednesday funeral, one could ask why five days weren't spent on the life and death of Sgt. John D Aragon, 22, of Antioch, California, who died in Iraq on the same day?

He was also, by all accounts, a dutiful son.

But let's not quibble.

Russert's death was news, in part, because it was news about the messenger--one of the most recognizable.

It stayed news, in part, because of something more important about him.

No less authority on eulogies, my rabbi commented that one of the reasons to be good in life is so people won't have to lie about you when you're dead.

And, as last week proved, sometimes the truth takes longer.

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