As probably anybody who follows politics knows, last Friday, Tim Russert, long-time host of the Sunday talk program "Meet The Press" died of a massive heart attack. Mr. Russert had been the host of the venerable program since 1991, and by all evidence coming in from friends, competitors and politicians who sat across the table from him on Sunday morning, he was a well regarded and well respected man.
His passing and the subsequent tributes from friend and foe alike got me thinking about our news media today. In my early years (1960's and 1970's), there were very few media people that were well know. The major networks each had their news bureaus. CBS had Cronkite, NBC had Huntley and Brinkley, ABC had Peter Jennings, Howard K. Smith and Harry Reasoner. Most of the local affiliates had popular anchors, but the point is there were very few. Newspapers provided the majority of opinion related content. Most editorials, either local in nature or syndicated columnists provided a perspective on events that were then "talked" about by family and friends.
Today, with the advent of the Internet and Cable and Satellite television, there is a never ending stream of content available. This is both good and bad in my estimation. It's good because opinion from every point of view is readily available. It's good because at the touch of a button, we can read, see and hear what others in the world think. It's good because it allows one greater opportunity for learning.
It's also a bad thing. The reason I say this is because people rarely talk about issues like they used to. I think the easy access and nature of the media today keeps people tuned in and out of touch with their relatives, neighbors, friends, etc. When I was a kid, our conservative commentator was the guy that lived across the street from us. He listened and read William Buckley and William Safire and then provided color commentary ala Rush Limbaugh. My Uncle was our Chris Matthews in that he liked to be bombastic and talk over every one to make his point. My point is, and perhaps its just nostalgia and the fact that our families are different today, that we don't spend much time with our own Sunday round tables. While Mr. Russert and his compadres on the Sunday morning circuit (My favorite is "This Week") will provide a high degree of quality information and multiple perspectives, it's not the same as arguing about a policy in Viet Nam with my Dad, or discussing a political campaign with my best friend.
Look, the media is a valuable thing depending upon how one uses it. I'm resolving to reboot my own internal "Meet the Press" with my family. So my kids need to look out: Next Sunday, at lunch, I'll honor Mr. Russert's opening line on Meet the Press and say :"Our Issues This Sunday are....."
RIP Mr. Russert