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NBC Faces Critical Task of Replacing Tim Russert

June 17, 2008

By JESSICA HESLAM

During a touching tribute on yesterday’s “Today” show, Luke Russert was asked about his late father Tim’s role as a journalist and broadcaster.

“I honestly believe that he saw himself as the questioner for the American people,” the young Russert said of his father, the longtime host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Now the network faces the sensitive yet critical task of figuring out not who can replace the legendary newsman who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 58 on Friday – but who can take his seat as moderator of the powerful Sunday broadcast.

The New York Times reported yesterday that candidates from inside NBC could include evening news anchor Brian Williams, correspondents David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell as well as MSNBC hosts such as Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough and Keith Olbermann.

Other names being floated in published and online reports include former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd.

The Los Angeles Times reported that it’s less likely the network would reach outside to “brand name talent” such as CBS anchor Katie Couric or ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Emily Rooney, host of Greater Boston’s “Beat the Press,” said the network has to give serious consideration to Mitchell, also an anchor on MSNBC.

“She’s just amazing. She’s covered politics for 40 years. I think she’d be sort of a natural,” Rooney said.

NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust said the focus right now is on getting through the painful next few days. A wake for Russert is being held today and a private funeral and memorial is set for tomorrow.

“The best way to honor Tim is to step up and work together to keep “Meet the Press” as the premier public affairs broadcast on television,” Gollust said in an e-mail yesterday. “One of Tim’s favorite expressions was, “Go get ‘em.” We’ll do just that.”

- jheslam@bostonherald.com




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