(by Dan ’Monty’ Montalto)
Earlier this afternoon as the newsroom was buzzing over the R. Kelly verdict, Stephen Totilo, our resident video game expert, came over and asked, “Did you guys hear that Tim Russert died?” Even in the midst of one of our biggest stories this year, everyone within earshot immediately began Googling, channel surfing and checking every reliable news source for more information, hoping that it was an erroneous report.
Then, at about 3:40 p.m., Tom Brokaw, his voice shaking with grief, appeared on MSNBC to announce the loss of the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and one of political journalism’s most authoritative voices. Here in the newsroom a crowd gathered around one of the TVs, totally shocked and saddened by the loss of a giant in the field of journalism. Especially in this election year, Tim had become such a familiar and comforting face in helping us and millions across the country to make sense of the madness that is U.S. electoral politics.
Working at MTV News, you get to be a part of some pretty amazing things, from the VMAs to the Movie Awards, Live Earth to Lollapalooza. For many of us, though, there’s nothing better than getting to work on our political coverage. In January, a small crew of us were covering the Iowa caucus and shooting extra footage for an independent documentary (that’s how inspired we were). Needless to say, it was a chaotic week. For those of you who have never been in Iowa for the caucus (which is probably most everyone not from Iowa), it’s a total madhouse. Every media outlet across the country — and many others from around the world — descends on Des Moines and crams into the convention center in the heart of the city with hundreds and hundreds of cameras, lights and reporters — all in one room.
It was there that several of us had the pleasure of seeing Tim Russert in action. Even after all the rappers, pop divas and rock stars, we were all pretty geeked-out by the sight of Tim Russert sitting in his chair, speaking to some unseen politician or pundit with his trademark gravitas. We all stood there for a few minutes, taking it in, watching a man at the top of his game. For the political junkies on our crew it was like watching a great athlete in his prime.
So we were especially sad to learn that he had died today at the age of 58, very much still in his prime. I know that I am not alone in this newsroom when I say that Sunday mornings will never be the same.