Russert, Tim(othy) 1950–
RUSSERT, Tim(othy) 1950–
PERSONAL: Born May 7, 1950, in Buffalo, NY; son of Tim (a sanitation foreman and truck driver) Russert; married Maureen Orth (a writer); children: Luke. Education: Graduate of John Carroll University and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
CAREER: Journalist and attorney. U.S. Senate, Washington, DC, special counsel, 1977–82; Office of the Governor, Albany, NY, counsel, 1983–84; National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), began in 1984, managing editor and moderator of Meet the Press, 1991–, political analyst for NBC Nightly News and Today, anchor of The Tim Russert Show (CNBC), contributing anchor for MSNBC, and senior vice president and Washington bureau chief of NBC News. Trustee of Freedom Forum's Newseum; member of board of directors, Greater Washington Boys and Girls Club and America's Promise-Alliance for Youth; lecturer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fatherhood awards include Father of the Year, National Father's Day Committee, 1995, Dream Dad, Parents, 1998, and Father of the Year, National Fatherhood initiative, 2001; Joan S. Barone Award, Radio and Television Correspondents, and Walter Cronkite Award, Annenberg Center, 2000, for interviews with presidential nominees George W. Bush and Al Gore; Edward R. Murrow Award (shared), 2001, for overall excellence in television; named the best and most influential journalist in Washington, DC, Washingtonian, 2001; John Peter Zenger Award; American Legion Journalism Award; Congressional Medal of Honor Society Journalism Award; Allen H. Neuharth Award for excellence in journalism; David Brinkley Award for excellence in communication; recipient of dozens of honorary doctorates.
(With Bill Novak) Big Russ and Me: Father and Son; Lessons of Life (memoir), Miramax/Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Tim Russert is a television journalist whose role as host of the popular Sunday morning talk show Meet the Press has made him one of the country's most influential political commentators. Esquire contributors Tom Carson and Barry Sonnenfeld wrote that Russert has come to play the role that was previously occupied by news giants Ted Koppel, Sam Donaldson, and Dan Rather: "A decade into his tenure there," they said, "Russert is widely regarded as the capital's toughest inquisitor, the journalist who asks the hard questions and doesn't let anyone off the hook. Yet one reason Russert never makes the powers that be squirm, except individually, is that he's refereeing a game whose rules he's eager to endorse, playing a time-honored role in Washington media culture." Earlier in his career, in 1985, Russert arranged for an unprecedented live broadcast of Pope John Paul II for the Today show. In 1986 and 1987 he led news teams that broadcast from South America, Australia, and China.
Russert was born into an Irish-Catholic working-class family in South Buffalo, New York. He was educated by Jesuits and nuns, served as an altar boy, and was greatly influenced by the adults in his life, most notably by his father, who, as he notes in his memoir Big Russ and Me: Father and Son; Lessons of Life, continues to be a guiding light. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "Russert, the kid from blue-collar South Buffalo who now grills the prominent and powerful, writes in a style as unadorned as the snow in the land of the Bills."
Time critic John F. Dickerson noted that "some grown men have trouble embracing their fathers in public. Russert hugs his for twenty-one chapters in Big Russ and Me…, a memoir that is part tribute to his dad and part guidebook for the author's college-age son, Luke." A high-school dropout, Big Russ served in World War II and returned home to work for the sanitation department during the day and drive a newspaper truck at night. Young Russ also worked for the sanitation department during the summer and was the first in his family to graduate from college. He later went on to earn a law degree, and he worked on the staffs of politicians Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Mario Cuomo.
America writer Terry Golway noted that Big Russ and Me is the "sort of literary work that some of us have been longing for—a book in which nuns and priests actually inspire the young people in their charge. It is also a portrait of a chapter in American life that now seems as distant as the Jazz Age." Russert writes that religion was a vital part of his home life and schooling. Crosses hung above beds, grace was said at meals, and during May, the Virgin Mary's month, his mother would honor her each day with a candle and fresh flowers from the garden. Golway said, "I suspect that not many memoirs from powerful Washington figures recall with such love and affection these rituals of a Catholic childhood, circa 1960. That's what makes this book so genuinely sweet and likeable—there's not a dishonest page in it."
Appraising Russert's influence within the sphere of mainstream journalism, New Yorker writer Nicholas Lemann commented: "Russert probably holds the distinction of being the journalist whose work Washington talks about most obsessively…. Russert performs a journalistic function on Meet the Press in the sense that he peppers officials with questions, but even if you don't live in Washington it's obvious that he's a bigger deal than most of his guests. His role is that of a luminous fixed star in political space, around whom other bodies must orient themselves."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Russert, Tim, and Bill Novak, Big Russ and Me: Father and Son; Lessons of Life (memoir), Miramax/Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.
America, June 7-14, 2004, Terry Golway, review of Big Russ and Me: Father and Son; Lessons of Life, p. 22.
Booklist, March 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 1099.
Esquire, January, 2004, Tom Carson and Barry Sonnenfeld, "The Daunting Guy: There Was Koppel and, before Him, Donaldson and Rather. Now It's Russert Who Is Reputed to Have the Power to Sway Elections and Afflict the Comfortable," p. 48.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 263.
Library Journal, July, 2004, Katherine E. Merrill, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 94.
New Yorker, May 24, 2004, Nicholas Lemann, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 82.
People, May 17, 2004, Eric Felten, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 49.
Publishers Weekly, April 5, 2004, Jerome Joseph Gentes, "From Meet the Press to Meet the Parent" (interview), p. 54; May 24, 2004, Daisy Maryles, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 24.
Sports Illustrated, May 24, 2004, Richard Deitsch, interview with Russert, p. 24.
Time, May 24, 2004, John F. Dickerson, review of Big Russ and Me, p. 83.
Meet the Press Online, http://msnbc.msn.com (July 8, 2004), "Tim Russert."