On the Site: Reaction to Tim Russert Coverage

Members of our online family have strong opinions about Thursday's interview with Slate media critic Jack Shafer, who says the media went overboard in its coverage of newsman Tim Russert's death.

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(Soundbite of music)

MIKE PESCA, host:

Well, perhaps that should be Spanish inflected bum-bum-bum-bum music, because our regular web editor Laura Conaway is on vacation in Spain. So, pinch-hitting is BPP producer Caitlin Kenney. How're you doing, Caitlin?

CAITLIN KENNEY: I'm well. How are you, Mike?

PESCA: How's that - I'm good, thanks for asking. And how's the site doing?

KENNEY: The site's doing really well.

PESCA: I was going to say more importantly, but I prefer people to sites.

KENNEY: OK.

PESCA: Unless it's, like, a really good site, and a really lame person.

KENNEY: But we have a really good site...

PESCA: All right, all right.

KENNEY: So maybe you should change your opinion on that.

PESCA: Well, that would be degrading you, in my opinion, in favor of the site.

KENNEY: So, anyway...

PESCA: I know you are tending the site. So what do you finding?

KENNEY: Yes, on the site we have a bunch of comments on this post. We posed a question yesterday after we talked to Slate's Jack Shafer. He criticized the media coverage of Tim Russert's death.

PESCA: Someone else in that interview also criticized the media coverage of Tim Russert's death. I don't want to put it all on Shafer.

KENNEY: Yes, well, other people have, you know, been making comments saying, perhaps they went too far.

PESCA: Really?

KENNEY: So we posed a question to ask the BPP listeners what they thought. We've got a ton of responses so far. Over about 65 people have commented, and we want you to keep them coming. So, a lot of people have taken issue with Shafer's criticism.

One of those is Linda Yun. She wrote, "I'm so disgusted by this particular segment. I cannot believe you'd even pose this question to the public, the people who loved and adored this great man for doing what all of us could not, which was holding politicians and policy makers accountable for their words and actions. Mr. Russert worked tirelessly on behalf of all of us for your program to take his life and the cathartic coverage of his friends, colleagues and loved ones for a frivolous, meaningless segment is heartless, and just as guilty as the thing you are criticizing."

PESCA: Mm-hm.

KENNEY: Then we had some people on the other side. David Hollis commented that this coverage was way too much. "He was a TV newsman, period. NBC ought to be ashamed of itself for its exploitive coverage of his death."

PESCA: Did you get any sense of how many people writing on that topic either heard the interview that we did - which, I guess, they don't have to - or - this is the really deep work - went and read Shafer's original column in Slate?

KENNEY: Well, we linked to it, and...

PESCA: OK.

KENNEY: I don't - I'm not sure how many people clicked on that link, to be honest with you. I know there were some people who commented on our thread, and said they originally hadn't listened to the interview. And then, when they went back and had, they realized that Shafer had said, you know, I'm not saying Tim Russert's not a great journalist.

PESCA: That was the thing. I think I started off by complimenting Tim Russert, and Shafer said - complimented Tim Russert. No one said anything bad about his journalism, you know? They talked about NBC's journalism in covering the whole Russert affair.

KENNEY: And that was one of the things, too, a lot of the people who even came out and said listen, you know, I think he was a great man. I do appreciate his journalism. But maybe this coverage did go too far. David Hollis wrote, wow, I'm a little surprised by some of the reactions I've read on this forum. To read some of these, you would have thought that Tim Russert walked on water. I guess I never realized how popular the man was. I understand admiration, but a lot of these responses sound more like hero worship.

PESCA: Right, but most of the people disagreed with Hollis on the blog, right?

KENNEY: Yeah.

PESCA: Yeah, they said that we loved Tim Russert. Mourn Tim Russert.

KENNEY: Yeah, definitely.

PESCA: Well, you know...

KENNEY: It went that way, but we're still interested in hearing what you have to say. So, keep those comments coming.

PESCA: Anything else going on? I'm going to say, yes. So, what else...

KENNEY: Yeah.

PESCA: Is going on in the blog this week?

KENNEY: We've got a great video up of musician G. Love. You talked to him the other day. He was in the studio, and he sang a track off his new album, "Superhero Brother." Song is called "Peace, Love and Happiness," one of those songs he said was inspired by his visit to the slums of Rio de Janeiro. So we've got that video up, which is great. We also posted the vocab quiz that you and Tricia competed in the other day.

PESCA: I see Tricia in the control room saying something nasty right now. Is that vocab quiz still stinging?

KENNEY: She gets...

PATRICIA MCKINNEY: Sorry, looking for the right button to push. No, it wasn't - we weren't talking about that topic at all. But, yes, I will cop to the fact it is painful to me have lost to you in a vocabulary contest. It's painful.

PESCA: Well, if it's - I mean, I'm sure you would be better at creating a baconhenge than I am.

MCKINNEY: That I - well, you're sitting in there the only other person...

PESCA: Yeah.

MCKINNEY: To whom I've gone up against in a contest here, and to whom I also lost.

KENNEY: Aw.

PESCA: But here's the thing. What I'm saying is...

MCKINNEY: I'm two - I'm zero for two.

PESCA: We have to get all these different - you have so many skills. We have to get all these different staff members to just go up against and give you a good game. Like, I couldn't hold a candle to your cooking. She could probably beat you in a vocab quiz, Caitlin, would you say that? KENNEY: Yes, definitely. I'd say that.

PESCA: OK. So, like of the staff of 20, maybe, you know, then you'd need all 20 to just test your various skills.

MCKINNEY: Yeah, basically, what we need to do is get people who aren't really so good at something to go up against me.

PESCA: OK.

MCKINNEY: Because I can't beat the people who are really good at something, is what you're saying.

KENNEY: Aw.

MCKINNEY: But that's actually true. Listen, I - it's all good. It's all good.

PESCA: Yeah. I think what we're saying, bottom line, she's still a little stung.

KENNEY: Yeah, and we're going to have a video of that on the site, unfortunately for Tricia, so she can watch it, and relive it. And we're also, we just talked about that balloon segment.

PESCA: Yeah.

KENNEY: They came and showed us how to make some things. So we're going to post that video later today to teach you how to make your very own balloon dog at home.

PESCA: Thanks.

KENNEY: And it's not that hard.

PESCA: Thanks, Caitlin Kenney, who is pinch-hitting for the blog. And that is it this hour of the BPP. We're always online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Mike Pesca. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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