Tuesday, June 17, 2008

WWCG (What will Conkrite get?)

Tim Russert was a great journalist. I don't get a chance to watch TV news programs every Sunday, but when I do, it's "Meet the Press." He's a tough interview and doesn't go in for the screamfest that inundates the bulk of what passes for dialogue on the cable "news" networks.

That said, was Russert enough of a media icon to warrant the hours of coverage devoted by NBC and its army of cable networks? Let's hope they didn't do it for ratings.

Jim McCay, who was a one-man ESPN before ESPN was around, about a week earlier. He received scant notice, especially compared to Russert. This for a man who is synonymous with ABC's "Wide World of Sports" and ultimate sports/news crossover story of Israeli athletes being murdered at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

My question is: If Russert deserves suspending programming for the night, special tributes on Saturday and Sunday, and a parade of remembrances on Monday, what will happening following the death of Walter Conkrite - the dean of TV journalists?

Peter Jennings, who was retired when he died, got a break-in regular coverage announcement and a two-hour prime time special. Tom Brokaw is retired and probably will get the same treatment. Dan Rather is still alive, but his career died after CBS gave him the boot.

News division occasionally do stories about the celebrity culture and ponder why America is so fascinated. The next time NBC does a story on that topic, it should first review it's own coverage on the death of a news employee.


GumbyTheCat said...

Interesting take on the subject.

I too had noticed the relative lack of coverage of McKay's death compared to Russert's. It immediately brought to mind the disparity in news coverage of the deaths of Mother Theresa and Princess Diana, less than two weeks apart. It was almost surreal to me.

That being said, I don't blame a network for wanting to remember its icons the way they did for Russert, and Peter Jennings before him. I don't think it's for the ratings. Meet The Press was already going to get ratings out the wazoo that Sunday. I believe NBC just gave the viewers they knew were going to be there, what they knew they wanted to see.

I don't believe that's caving into the public's fascination with celebrity culture. The networks are of that, of course, but I don't believe it's the right label to stick on a network's decision to honor one of its own fallen - especially when the person in question is regarded as an icon. Russert may not have been in the same league as Jennings and Cronkite, but I believe he deserved the extra attention afforded to him.

40-Year-Old Blog said...

I agree with you Gumby that Russert is an icon of the his time, and certainly deserves to be remembered.

I brought up the Jennings reference (and maybe should have couched it in better terms) that here's a longtime anchor (Jennings) whose death gets a two-hour primetime special (which I feel is appropriate) and here's a longtime program anchor (Russert) whose death got two-plus hours a day for six days (albeit some of that on NBC-owned cable networks, not all of it on the flagship network).

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