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Who is Tim Russert?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 23, 2024
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Timothy John Russert has been called an institution, an icon in American political journalism who was beloved and respected by colleagues, friends and even some adversaries. Born 7 May 1950 in Buffalo, New York, Tim Russert made his name and reputation as the long time moderator of the political interest show, Meet the Press on NBC. He also served as the Washington Bureau Chief at NBC. His influence in the world of politics and how they are covered by journalists earned him a spot in 2008 on the 100 Most Influential People in the World list published by Time magazine.

Tim Russert was very vocal in his appreciation for the opportunity to attend Catholic schools, provided by the hard work of his father, Timothy Joseph Russert, lovingly nicknamed, “Big Russ.” After graduating from Canisius High School, Russert attended John Carroll University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1972. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor in 1976 from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Russert began his career in politics, not in journalism as some would imagine. He started working for Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s campaign for New York senator in 1976. Following the successful campaign, Russert served as Moynihan’s chief of staff for five years. He went on to work for Democrat Mario Cuomo in several different capacities.

In 1991, Tim Russert started as moderator of Meet the Press, which has steadily gained in popularity over the years. Any hopeful politician worth his salt had to make an appearance on Meet the Press, with the hopes of making it out alive. While Tim Russert has always been championed as an extremely fair and friendly moderator, he held each and every guest accountable for all actions both past and present. He was celebrated for his intense preparation for every interview, and his exhaustive knowledge of the politics issues of the moment. Russert is said to have coined the “red states/blue states” designation of Republican and Democratic dominated states, and successfully predicted battleground states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. When he commented on current issues, viewers and politicians listened.

In addition to his influence over politics and journalism, Tim Russert was a best selling author. He penned a tribute to his father in 2004 with Big Russ and Me, which he followed with Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons in 2005. Russert received numerous awards and designations, including 48 honorary doctorates, the Edward R. Morrow Award, the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism, and even an Emmy.

Although he suffered from heart disease for years, Tim Russert fell victim to an unexpected heart attack while he was at work, on 13 June 2008. He left behind his wife, Maureen, son, Luke, and his beloved parents.

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