Genuine Experience and Integrity

Published: June 13, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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It’s interesting to see the direction these commentaries take.  I never have a preconceived plan.  I go where the story and the ethical issue take me.

In Monday’s post (June 10) I had strong feelings that “Vanity Fair” editor Todd Purdum’s use of anonymous sources to insinuate that former President Bill Clinton’s “…appearances of impropriety” on the road campaigning for his wife, Hillary were both excessive and unnecessary gossip.

Earlier today I explored an example by Charles Lewis, where a reporter argued to hold up on a potentially sensational story because all of the facts did not support a case of wrong-doing.

Later today, we all learned of the untimely passing of a reporter who was the definition of a professional journalist – Tim Russert.

Every Sunday morning I would eagerly tune in to watch “Meet the Press” because I trusted Mr. Russert to ask the critical questions of the day of politicians and other Washington figures.  In a background of spin, and sometimes, stonewalling, newsmakers who appeared on “Meet the Press” knew that they would be challenged about their words and actions.  Relying on an arsenal of research, Tim Russert would frequently use a politician’s own words from a previous speech or press statement to challenge their thinking and beliefs.

Whether it was a congressman, press secretary, Republican or Democrat, listening to Tim Russert, I frequently felt he was asking the questions I would like answered.  And when that official would try to maneuver around the issue, Mr. Russert was fearless yet respectful in his follow-ups.

In a time when manners seem to have evaporated in the excess of cable news, Tim Russert always conducted himself in a civil and fair-minded way.

CNN Special Correspondent Frank Sesno called Tim Russert “…a man of genuine experience and integrity.”

In less than a week, we have lost two role models of journalistic fidelity – Jim McKay and Tim Russert.  McKay got us to care about the human side of athletes.  Russert pushed us to become more engaged in the political process like no other journalist.

Both men did their jobs with intelligence, respect and great integrity. And both will be greatly missed.


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