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They took all the newsmen and put them in the Newseum

November 19, 2009 |  5:15 pm

I met Tim Russert only once, before a "Meet the Press" debate between two Senate candidates from my home state of Pennsylvania. Russert was engaging, impressively au courant with Keystone State politics and, well, a nice guy. I also admired his work, and I was sad when he died before his time. (You never hear about someone dying at his time.)

Still, I cringed at the excessiveness of his obsequies. Journalism has a long, and appealingly human, tradition of providing a little nicer send-off to colleagues than someone in another business might receive. That's why newspapers give their own printers and truck drivers suspiciously long obituaries. The over-the-top eulogies for Russert were a species of this phenomenon, but that didn't make them less bizarre. I like to think that Russert, looking down, would want to interrupt his media mourners in mid-gush just the way he called politicians on their prevarications.

But at least that's over now -- except that it isn't. Tomorrow the Newseum (I know, it's a goofy name for an interesting resource) will unveil a new exhibit: a re-creation of Russert's office at NBC News, complete with his desk "stacked high with research material, books and handwritten notes, illustrating the rigorous preparation Russert put into each show" and "mementos of his beloved Buffalo Bills." What, no Rolodex?

This has just a whiff of the medieval Catholic practice of venerating relics of the saints, which probably would amuse Russert -- and, I hope, embarrass him.

--Michael McGough
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