Monday, June 16, 2008

NBC: Moving from Sad to Creepy

LSB: Despite what you may have thought of him as an interviewer, anyone whoever watched Meet the Press for any amount of time knew that Tim Russert was a decent, stand-up, family guy. From his occasional closing comment to his son or his father, to his show of support for his hometown sports team, Russert seemed like the kind of guy that would be fun to drink a beer with on election eve. When I first read the news it was moving to see the heartfelt testimonials from his colleagues at NBC and those he interviewed.

Bigger than life with a zest for life, to be sure, and with an timely death that took everyone by surprise, it is only natural that Russert's closest friends and colleagues would be so emotional and want to pay tribute to him. Because Russert was all over the airways, especially in the past six months with the primaries, it was natural that NBC should try to include their viewers in the grieving process.

But Russert was the messenger, not the message – the reporter, not the story. After two days of nearly non-stop memorials and little other news, NBC has started to move from the sad to the obsessive/creepy in the continuing coverage of Russert's death. Matt Lauer, for example, just interviewed Tim's son, Luke, in the opening minutes of the Today show. The kid is a younger version of his dad, thoughtful and well-spoken. Matt was so effusive with his praise and his concern that Luke 'really understand how much his dad loved him' (he knew), that it was a little creepy to watch what should have been a private moment played for the cameras. It crossed over to that kind of interview we've all seen with the tornado victim that is picking through the rubble of their home and is asked by a "concerned" interviewer how they feel. The picture that they flashed of Luke visiting the set of MTP yesterday – the Kennedy-esq Profiles in Courage pose – was a blatantly manipulative tug at the viewers' heartstrings.

Maybe I'm just a cold-hearted bastard, but death is a part of the circle of life (thanks, Elton!) and life does go on. The best tribute to a person you admire is to emulate the best aspects of their life and incorporate them into your own. But you must move forward; to continue to dwell on one person to put their life ahead of all of the still-living. There is a lot of other news in the world, so NBC and Russert's colleagues need to incorporate what they feel are the ideals they believe Russert embodied and cover all of the other unfolding news fairly.

No comments: