Tim Russert, A Man for Our Time

russert summer home

The late Tim Russert's summer home in Nantucket, from the Cape Cod Times via Bob Somerby.

Being a "get along, go along" guy pays handsomely. Here's a Hartford Courant editorial about Russert during the Scooter Libby trial:

.... In his own trial testimony, Russert explained his own unique approach to the concept of "off the record" conversations with public officials. Russert said public officials do not have to ask to go off the record with him. They are always presumptively off the record. Then, if he wants to get them on the record, he revisits the point and asks them to go public.

This is a wonderful, generous strategy, and the only problem with it is that it represents a complete inversion of the standard operating practices of journalism. Every reporter who works at this newspaper, and pretty much every reporter professionally employed at any other reputable organ of the press has been instructed to do the opposite: assume that every utterance is on the record unless the utterer has explicitly gone off the record before uttering. ....

But Russert's policy is one of his own invention, and it's the kind of policy you'd have if you prized your cozy relationship with powerful people more highly than you prized your role as a reporter.

I mention all this because, here and there, you read comments about the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and how much he damaged the First Amendment by sweating a bunch of journalists. Please. It's more like he lanced some kind of infectious boil.

And I mention it because now you don't have to watch "Meet the Press."

I'm sure that if Russert apologizes for pretending to fight a subpoena without telling us he had already sung like a canary or if he renounces his cozy relationships with the powerful, someone will tell you. Not me. ....