If there was one topic that focused media attention this weekend, it was the death of one of the industry’s own: Tim Russert. Russert’s passing provoked praise and grief and mourning across all the media and a good amount of talk about journalism and its practitioners. It’s no surprise. Over decades at NBC Russert, host of the flagship Sunday program Meet the Press had become a massively influential media presence.
For me one moment stood out. It was Friday, soon after the news of Russert’s death broke. NBC anchor Brian Williams was interviewed on camera from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Calling Russert’s death "an unfathomable loss", he appeared to choke up. You could hear the pain in his voice.
Watching him there — in Afghanistan, but it could as well have been Iraq — I couldn’t help but think. After how many hundreds of thousands dead in the US’s two assaults on those two countries — what if Williams, or Russert or any of the big power news men ever expressed emotion about other deaths. What if we saw them pause and choke up – even once – at the slaughter of an Afghan family in a misguided US missile attack, or swallow hard while reporting the blowing-to-bits of an Iraqi father as he lined up to buy food or find work?
I know it’s possibly a subversive thought for all those deluded believers of objectivity in journalism — and heaven forbid we challenge convention — but what if — what if — in journalism, mourning, not to mention expressing feelings, wasn’t saved up just for journalists? What then, do you think?
You can see this commentary and a whole lot more later today on GRITtv at GRITtv.org