Russert exemplified what TV news can be

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

“Journalism is a noble calling. The working

journalist is to report, write, and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.”

— World Journalism Institute

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Throughout its history, journalism has been struck with damaging examples of journalists who have gone astray.

We are not unlike any other profession.

Just like the medical profession, the legal profession, the banking profession, education and any other prominent field, journalism has had its share of episodes when egg has been on our face because of ethical or professional violations.

But for every bad doctor, there are thousands who take their responsibilities seriously. For every crooked banker, there are thousands who make their communities better.

As for lawyers, well, never mind about lawyers.

Just kidding. The fine members of the bar association really don’t need to send me a letter.

But as for journalism, for every reporter like New York Times reporter Jayson Blair who gave the industry a black eye, there are thousands of journalists who work hard and do their best to serve the public’s interests.

And no journalist took that responsibility more seriously than Tim Russert, who died suddenly last week and has had an outpouring of support from a grateful audience.

Journalism is a sometimes difficult profession for the public to understand based on the various forms of media that exist. Terms like “bias” and “agendas” and “liberal” and “conservative” are often thrown around when they simply do not apply.

Perhaps that’s true because of the wide array of news programming on television. Many of those programs consist of commentators who give their opinions on the news and newsmakers, and sometimes that comes across as something other than impartial.

But there is a difference between those programs and the evening news. It’s kind of like a newspaper and the difference between news stories on the front page and opinion pieces that show up on the editorial page.

I always thought the really good TV journalists were the ones who asked the tough questions, gave commentary at the right time and did not make it clear what kind of politics they preferred.

Russert didn’t take it easy on anybody. He grilled Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals. He backed down from no one and was not intimidated by political strategists who have the job of trying to manipulate the media.

He asked the questions that needed to be asked, addressed the issues that needed to be addressed and uncovered the injustices that needed to be uncovered.

Tim Russert was a credit to journalism and a credit to free thinkers everywhere. He exemplified all that can be good with television news and brought a tough and fair approach to the political arena that was respected by news makers, policy makers and his professional colleagues.

It is a loss for NBC, a loss for journalism and, perhaps most importantly, a loss to anyone who expects the media to hold government accountable for what it does.

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Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at