One, Shafer could have laid more stress on one important reason for the wall-to-wall coverage: the cable news hole. You have to have something to fill that yawning chasm of dead air. That’s why know so much about a blonde who went missing in
Two, it’s time to say it: Russert wasn’t that great a journalist. Okay fair enough, nobody was that great a journalist. And Russert was, I grant, hard working and far better informed than the average pretty-faced chin-wagger. But at the end of the day he was a mainstay of the toxic web of journalistic clientism—the you-give-me-inside-dope, I-give-you-face-time symbiosis that has gone so much to degrade and vulgarize mainstream news coverage. It’s deadly for the polity and Russert was one of the principal purveyors of the virus, and in a very particular way: from the standpoint of his corporate masters, perhaps his most important skill was his knack for asking questions that seemed trenchant, penetrating, without ever pressing hard enough that they might have stopped people from returning his phone calls. I’ll grant you that journalism has been a mess from the get-go, but the celebrity of guys like Russert makes me pine for the era of the ink-stained wretch.
Which brings me to the third point about the canonization: it’s casting the ice axe up the canyon wall. Hey, if this guy is so great, then maybe the rest of us aren’t so bad at all. In a torrent of hot air, all egos rise at once.
Documented extra: Shafer’s piece took me back to one I had missed before: his own obituary on a beloved friend (link)—and the most savagely funny skewering of the late Richard Darman that one could possibly iimagine.