If ever there were any truth to the superstition that Friday the 13th brings
bad news, then Tim Russert¹s untimely death proves it. All of us who
work in media mourn the passing of this giant in broadcasting. Russert wore
many, many hats ­ professionally and personally. He was the Washington
bureau chief for NBC News, anchor of NBC’s "Meet the Press," and a regular
on various MSNBC news programs, to name but a few of his reporting duties.

Russert took over "Meet the Press" from Laurence Spivak in 1991 and has been
an agenda setter ever since. Spivak handed him a winning show and shared
his four-part "secret sauce" for making it great: learn everything about
your guests position; take the opposite position in your own questioning;
be persistent; and, always be civil.

With Russert at the helm, "Meet the Press" turned into a resounding
powerhouse hour for anyone interested in politics in America. For those who
live in Los Angeles, it airs at eight o¹clock on Sunday morning. What a
bracing way to wake up! No matter how late my Saturday night ended, I was
always glued to my TV the next morning because I craved my weekly fix. I
knew the guests would be excellent; the discussions, stimulating; Russert’s
research and background information would be impeccable and come from a
variety of sources; and he wouldn’t shy away from confronting anyone who
shirked his hard-hitting questions.

Russert’s colleagues around the world respected him because he was fair. He
kept his personal views to himself and never injected personal bias into his
work. While he was clearly considered an "A-list" guest himself, Russert
took great care not to succumb to the glamour of Washington by hobnobbing
with his interviewees. Through the act of maintaining a professional
distance from his subjects, he upheld the time-honored, although steadily
diminishing, gold standard in news reporting: impartiality.

As moderator, Russert prepared for each interview as though going into
battle…he never threw any low blows or blindsided a guest, but expected to
joust with them, challenging headlining men and women on both sides of the
aisle to support their public positions. In an era of triviality, he
focused on the big stuff and held his guests accountable for their own
actions and words.

All the while, he held true to the Spivak recipe: he was persistent and
tough, but a gentleman all the way. If a guest insisted on not answering a
question ­ and politicians are legendary for using double talk to avoid
saying anything ­ Russert would push the question forward and spar until his
guest simply dug in his heels. Perhaps disappointed, but never undaunted,
"Meet the Press’s" diplomat would it call it a draw and then graciously move
on to parry and thrust again on yet another subject.

This larger-than-life lover of life clearly relished his work and valued his
guests, but he didn¹t worship them. He chose to spend his off-duty time in
the company of his beloved wife and adored son. Or with his father, "Big
Russ," whom he revered. In doing so, he taught us some powerful lessons
about boundaries between work and life, and ultimately, what really matters.

And by suddenly passing away at the age of 58, gracious, genial, inquisitive
and exuberant Tim Russert forces us to face the ultimate questions: how do
we account for our days on this earth? What do we do to contribute to the
well-being of our loved ones and the world around us? Do we leave this
place better than we found it? Because life is short, earnest and