Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert has been reporting on and analyzing the political world around him since he was a student at a Catholic school in Buffalo, N.Y. But nothing he has experienced is as exciting as this year's presidential race, the newsman told a crowd of 750 in Denver on Sunday night. "I have never in my lifetime observed such a campaign, the level of interest, the level of curiosity, the level of intensity," Russert said. "It's good. It's wonderful. It's awesome for our democracy. The people are engaged. They understand it matters who the president of the United States is."
None of us knew how little time Tim Russert had left to live as he stood to accept his Damon Runyon award.
When he died two months later of a heart attack, many of us who had packed the banquet hall April 13 felt a deep and abiding sense of loss. After all, he was “one of us.”
It also made us appreciate the message Russert delivered that night: that journalism matters. In a deeply political year, the role of the journalist as the impartial sifter of spin and fact was important and essential, he said.
Some wags have joked through the years about “the curse of the Runyon” -- that several of the recipients have died since winning.
I usually promise these pundits immortality by reminding them they’ll never win the award. Then I point out the painful truth. We all die. It’s how we live our life that matters.
Russert lived a life that mattered. His role in making “Meet the Press” a crucible in which elected officials were forced to confront their own records redefined what it meant to be a journalist in a 24/7 news cycle.
In recognition of his life and work, the Press Club re-named its top annual award for college journalists as the Tim Russert Memorial Scholarship. We obtained the blessing of Russert’s widow, Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair magazine, to do so.