Colleagues Reflect on Life and Career of Tim Russert

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 13, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: For those of you who might be joining us late, the legendary NBC newsman Tim Russert died suddenly today of an apparent heart attack. He was just 58 years old.

Russert had blue-collar roots, but as the moderator of "Meet the Press," he interviewed hundreds of Washington's most powerful movers and shakers.

Joining us now for a look back at Russert's career and his legacy, John Stack, vice president of newsgathering here at FOX News. John worked with Russert at NBC for more than a dozen years. And on the phone from North Carolina is Bernie Goldberg, who spent years at the competition, at CBS News.

Bernie and John, a horrible and sad night, but it's great to have both of you with us.



INGRAHAM: John, you worked with him for all those years at NBC. Tell us about your working relationship with him. And what made him different from all the other folks that you've worked with over the years?

STACK: I think that the first thing that comes to mind is his disarming charm. If he didn't know something, he'd work overtime to learn it. We worked together a lot, because Tim, obviously, in addition to "Meet the Press" chores, was the bureau chief in Washington. So I was, at that point in my life, the director of foreign news at NBC. And we would come together, arranging pools, and to see what the capabilities are and what they're not. But the thing that comes to mind is him working. If he didn't know something, he'd find out in about 20 minutes all about it.

INGRAHAM: John, did he try to make you into a Buffalo Bills fan?

STACK: That could never happen.

INGRAHAM: Because he always did that. No?

STACK: That could never happen. And Tim and I would joust by e-mail on that. I'm a New York football Giant fan, and we share the same state, and that's about it.

INGRAHAM: And I know he always teased you about that.

I want to go to Bernie Goldberg on the phone. Bernie, I know that you interviewed Tim Russert for one of your books, and then I would love for you to share some of your thoughts on Tim and maybe even read some of the wonderful passages.

GOLDBERG: Well, Laura, this is hardly an original thought. He was one of the good guys. But the reason he was one of the good guys isn't simply because he knew his beat better than almost everybody else. He was one of the good guys because he was fair. He was a blue-collar guy who understood America and Americans a lot better than a lot of other people who work in journalism.

One of the things that he told me — I did a long interview with him and published the entire — I didn't want to take snippets out so I published the entire transcript of the interview. Let me read you a short segment here. This was about the need for real diversity in the newsroom that goes beyond the kind we have now. He said:

"I'm all for hiring women in the newsroom and minorities in the newsroom. I'm all for it. It opens up our eyes and gives us a different perspective. But just as well, let's have people with military experience. Let's have people from all walks of life. People from the top echelon schools, but people from junior colleges and the so-called middling schools. That's the rich pageantry of America. I'm a great believer in racial diversity and gender diversity. But you need cultural diversity. You need ideological diversity."

And then he emphasized, Laura, "You need it."

You know, I've spent much of the day listening to his colleagues say wonderful things about Russert, and I'm glad for every word. But I wish his colleagues understood that part of Tim Russert, too. That he knew that we needed all kinds of people in journalism, because if we didn't have it, we were going to get one-sided journalism. We were going to get people who brought their biases to the stories.

And he didn't. He didn't. He went out of his way to take a position, to look at a position, and say, "This is how I feel about it, and that is totally irrelevant." That's what made him as important as he was, that he was fair.

INGRAHAM: And John, I want to ask you about his style of interviewing and how he prepared for an interview, because you would look at that table at "Meet the Press," and he would have stacks, stacks of cards. He clearly had, you know, tabbed things. He was, you know, ready to go. What went into his preparation, which I think a lot of people in this business really, really relished to see every Sunday?

STACK: Sometimes it's not very complicated. I think Tim outworked the people he interviewed. You weren't going to beat him on substance, and you weren't going to be him on available data. There might be a shrewd politician that had a turn of phrase that could, at least temporarily, steer him away from a given subject. But sure as heck, he'd get right back on track.

Tim worked extremely hard. We have to remember that he had a whole separate career prior to entering the journalist and broadcast business. And he worked very, very hard. He took over a third-place interview show in Washington and made it the premier show that it is today. I dare say, with due respect to his predecessor, nobody knows who emceed "Meet the Press" before Tim Russert did.

INGRAHAM: Gentlemen, we appreciate on this very sad night your joining us. Thanks a lot.

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