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Lessons from Russert Coverage

Tim RussertImage via WikipediaWe’ve finally reached the end of the Tim Russert hagiography on MSNBC and other major television networks, and Hal Boedeker rightly describes it as “one of the most embarrassing chapters in television journalism.” Indeed. While Russert’s death was untimely, and he was a media star, he received coverage normally reserved for heads of state and popes when they die.

Boedeker doesn’t just dissect the coverage, though. He offers some lessons that should be taught in J-schools. To wit:

1. Don’t lose perspective. On Friday, “NBC Nightly News” devoted its entire half-hour to Russert. The network ignored all the other news in the world. I thought Brian Williams would say, “Tim would want us to move to the news of the day.” Williams never did. That was a prelude to the days upon days coverage of Russert coverage on MSNBC. It was a misuse of a valuable platform — and dereliction of journalistic duty.

2. Journalists should remember it’s not about them. NBC has a bad habit of turning the news into a family album. The Russert coverage was the worst example yet. We, the journalists, are not the news. If we can’t keep perspective about ourselves, how can you trust us when we turn to other topics?

3. If you can’t hold it together, perhaps you shouldn’t go on the air. Chris Matthews actually seemed dazed on Wednesday’s “Hardball.”

And he offered this bizarre comment: “Do you think it’s an odd coincidence that ever since the bad news came Friday from the studio in Nebraska — we all heard about it in our own worlds — that nothing else seems to have happened. It just seems to have been a moment of — almost a moment of silence, politically for this to be marked, this tragedy.”

Actually, quite a lot has happened in that time: flooding in the Midwest, a deadly bombing in Baghdad, fighting in Afghanistan, the possibility of peace talks in the Mideast, talk of oil drilling off the U.S. coast. That last story could become the biggest this year in Florida.

All those stories have political repercussions. NBC, however, was too busy being self-referential and self-reverential.

There’s more that is worth the read. (via Romenesko)

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