'America's most influential journalist' dies

The man widely viewed as America's most influential political journalist, Tim Russert, the probing host of NBC's Meet the Press, died suddenly yesterday.

Russert, who was 58, suffered a coronary embolism while working at the NBC Washington bureau. The consummate Washington insider, Time magazine had named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

As host of Meet the Press since 1991, Russert turned it into the most widely respected programme of the type on US television. Now in its 60th year, Meet the Press is a weekly trial by fire for the politically ambitious, and is the longest-running programme in the history of television. Anyone hoping to be president of the United States, had first to run its gauntlet.

He was "one of the premiere political journalists and analysts of his time," said Tom Brokaw, the former longtime anchor of NBC Nightly News, who announced his colleague's death. The Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz said he had "revolutionised Sunday morning television and infused journalism with his passion for politics".

The two men battling to be the next president of the US led the tributes to Russert. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, said: "There wasn't a better interviewer on television, not a more thoughtful analyst of our politics, and he was also one of the finest men I knew. Somebody who cared about America, cared about the issues, cared about family."

The Republican candidate John McCain called him "a truly a great American".

President George Bush, who is visiting Europe, also joined Hillary and Bill Clinton and numerous other political leaders in recognising his contribution to broadcasting. From his working class roots in Buffalo, New York, Russert had risen to become NBC's Washington bureau chief. With a genial but unrelenting line of questioning that could make the most hardened politician squirm, he was the undisputed king of political journalism in the US.

He frequently rattled candidates by demonstrating an intimate knowledge of their positions across the issues. With a twinkle in his eye he would reveal to Sunday morning viewers how a candidate had flip-flopped, while his victim sweated it out under the studio lights.

He also led the coverage of the presidential election campaign and called the primary race for Mr Obama on 6 May, the night of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, declaring: "We now know who the Democratic nominee's going to be, and no one's going to dispute it."

The pronouncement was treated as a major news event in itself and The New York Times reported that his instant analysis effectively blocked Mrs Clinton's campaign from portraying her narrow victory in Indiana as an upset. The steam quickly went out of her presidential campaign.

Russert's interview technique was much admired and studied by his rivals. "Plotting his interviews out like chess matches, he deploys aggressive openings, subtle feints, artfully constructed traps, and lightning offenses to crack the politicians' phony veneer and reveal the genuine veneer beneath," one commented.

As well as his Sunday morning programme, Russert was moderator for numerous political debates among presidential candidates. He also wrote two best-selling books.

Before becoming a political journalist in the 1980s, he was an insider in New York politics. He was chief of staff to the legendary New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and helped secure Mario Cuomo's election as governor of New York in 1982.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent