My friend Gemma sent me this Broadcasting & Cable article on Tim Russert last week. I printed it out, and read it on my flight to Florida for my father's sixtieth birthday celebration.
Meet the Press moderator and NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert does his homework, which is one of the reasons he is at the head of his class among Sunday-morning political talk shows and is recognized as one of the best—if not the best—interviewers in TV.
Initially, I wasn't entirely sure what Gemma's subtext was in sending the piece to me. Was she providing background? Reminding me to do my homework? Trying to throw a scare into me by reminding me that I am interviewing a great interviewer? It wasn't until the following passage that I got it:
Says Russert, a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan, “When I am watching a football game and John Madden is explaining things in layman’s language—'There they are on the line … watch out for that linebacker’—that’s what I try to do with Washington: explain it to people in an understandable and meaningful way. And I think that is important work.”
Russert, it would appear, is a fellow traveller. In addition to his friendship with The Rogers (or, perhaps in part, because of it), he understands the value of deep and simple. He is, as Fred would say (and Tim would remind me), a "helper."
So, I've come to discover, is Gemma.
I met Gemma, like so many of my friends, online. She found my site via my pals, The Nadas, and has been a steady correspondent since. Gemma works for NPR, one of the best sources of deep and simple around. Not surprisingly, then, we tend to gravitate towards conversations on Big Media, music, and the documentary. So her email on Tim Russert made sense. Funny thing happened, though, as we discussed Tim, and my impending travel to Washington, DC.
"If you do end up having an epic day in D.C.," she write, "And want to cap it by watching All Things Considered go out live from NPR, let me know."
As background, you have to know how much I love public radio. Since college, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, in specific, have been my primary sources of information. NPR was my sole companion in the summer of 1991 when I drove 8553 miles from Philadelphia to San Diego and back. I've woken up to Morning Edition every morning since. I learned of Mister Roger's death from Robert Siegel. Which promted this exchange:
Thanks, Gemma! I'd LOVE to come by. Anyone there that might have sage commentary for the doc? Come to think of it -- DUH! I'm SURE Susan Stamberg -- who moderated three Mister Rogers specials -- would have valuable insight. Fred touched so many lives, and his world overlapped so thoroughly with yours. How would you suggest I go about speaking with one of them?
Gemma shared my "duh," then hooked me up with the head of NPR Press Relations. And so it is that on Monday afternoon, Chris and I will stroll into the headquarters of what I consider to be one of the nation's finest news organizations to interview one of the nations finest broadcasters, Susan Stamberg.
Everyone that knew Fred says the same thing: he loved to bring people together. While this project -- which, by the way, I consider barely begun -- has been the largest, most challenging undertaking in my life, I know that it is unfolding as it should, or, more succinctly, just as Fred had intended it to. And the best part is the people we're meeting, and the inspiration they provide.