September 17, 2008

Luke Russert Gets into Family Business

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - The reporter who sat across from John McCain and Barack Obama for separate interviews that aired on NBC's "Today" show Friday was only 23.Was he nervous?"Not necessarily," Luke Russert said. "I had prior relationships with both of them."He asked both Obama and McCain about whether community service should be mandatory for young people. They said no, but both presidential candidates said the United States missed a real opportunity to teach citizens about sacrifice following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Matt Lauer debriefed him about the interviews.No one would have figured on seeing a Russert on the "Today" show this political season following the shocking death of Luke's dad, Tim Russert, of a heart attack on June 13.Offered the chance to report on youth issues for NBC News, the gregarious young Russert dove into the assignment with gusto, toting a microphone backstage at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Many of his stories have appeared on the "Nightly News" Web site and he blogs about his experiences on"He's one of the rookies of the year," said NBC News President Steve Capus. "Here's a man at the worst possible time in his life who stepped into the spotlight with great poise, strength and a sense of humor, with a love of politics and a love for NBC."Would a young man at his age and with his credentials secure such a high-profile job if his last name wasn't Russert? Doubtful, of course. But NBC News might be expected to act paternally toward a person its employees watched grow by the side of its beloved Washington bureau chief and "Meet the Press" host.He often accompanied his dad on assignments ("as a 10-year-old I was as tall as Ross Perot," he recalled), riding McCain's "Straight Talk Express" during the 2000 primary campaign and meeting Obama at a forum on public service in 2006.But it's not as if Russert didn't bring something to the table. The recent Boston College graduate has worked in media since he was a teenager, co-hosting a sports talk show on XM satellite radio with political consultant James Carville.Before his father died, he had already lined up a job covering the presidential campaign for another XM station. He chose to go to NBC when it offered more exposure.

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