Russert death strikes home at USD

Russert death strikes home at USD Marsh recalls sharing spotlight with 'Meet the Press' moderator By: Randy Dockendorf
Yankton Press & Dakotan BY RANDY DOCKENDORF Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008 12:45 AM CDT VERMILLION â�?�? In a scene known mostly by the worldâ�?�?s most powerful people, Jack Marsh shared the spotlight a decade ago with Tim Russert, the NBC Newsâ�?�? Washington Bureau Chief and â�?�?Meet The Pressâ�? moderator. â�?�?The day that it was announced that I was director of the Al Neuharth Media Center was the day that Tim Russert was on campus to receive the Neuharth Award,â�? Marsh said Friday from his University of South Dakota office. Ten years ago, Marsh felt pride and joy in meeting Russert. Marshâ�?�?s emotions were much different Friday, as he learned of Russertâ�?�?s unexpected death at the age of 58. Yesterday, Marsh was in the midst of a busy afternoon, working with aspiring young professionals at the American Indian Journalism Institute on the USD campus. Then came the stunning news of Russertâ�?�?s passing. â�?�?I saw a flash on TV this afternoon. I was tremendously shocked,â�? Marsh said, searching for words to describe his feelings. â�?�?This is a very sad day for me,â�? Marsh added, his voice showing emotion. Marsh remembered vividly Russertâ�?�?s appearance on the USD campus for the Sept. 24, 1998, awards presentation. Russert was in Vermillion to receive the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism, named for the USD graduate and USA Today founder. The Neuharth Award, presented annually, honors lifetime achievement in�?  journalism. â�?�?That day, I had the honor of doing a joint press conference to announce my appointment and to have Tim Russert receive the Neuharth Award,â�? Marsh said. â�?�?We didnâ�?�?t yet have the Neuharth Center, so we held it at the old Coyote Student Center.â�? â�?�?It was an important day in my life and career, and I was honored to be in Tim Russertâ�?�?s presence,â�? Marsh added. Marsh knew Russert not only as a Neuharth Award winner but also as a trustee for the Freedom Forumâ�?�?s Newseum in Washington, D.C. Marsh serves as vice president for diversity programs at the Freedom Forum. â�?�?Tim Russert was the finest interviewer in the country. He was an accomplished journalist and great father,â�? Marsh said. â�?�?He was also a terrific supporter of our work at the Freedom Forum.â�? However, Marshâ�?�?s connection to Russert runs much further back than the past decade. â�?�?I have known Tim Russert for 30 years, back to his days when he worked for (the late U.S. Sen.) Daniel Patrick Moynihan and (former New York governor) Mario Cuomo,â�? Marsh said. â�?�?I was a local editor in Utica, N.Y., when Tim was involved in politics in New York and when he went on to NBC and an incredible career as a journalist.â�? After working as a Democratic staff operative, Russert joined NBC News in 1984 and became â�?�?Meet The Pressâ�? host in 1991. Russert made an amazing transition from politics to the media, Marsh said. â�?�?Few people do it well, and Tim Russert did it exceptionally well,â�? Marsh said. â�?�?What distinguished Tim Russert was his preparation. He was an outstanding reporter, and he would go to extensive lengths to be prepared for any interview. His preparation was unparalleled.â�? Marsh said he later grew to admire Russert â�?�?as a wonderful author.â�? â�?�?He wrote the book, â�?�?Big Russ and Me,â�?�? which is probably one of my favorite books,â�? Marsh said, referring to Russertâ�?�?s book about his own father. â�?�?Tim and I both grew up in western New York and are the same age, and I can relate to a lot of things he wrote about in his book.â�? Russert reflected his working-class upbringing, Marsh said. Russertâ�?�?s father worked as a garbage collector who later held a supervisory position with the city of Buffalo, N.Y., Marsh added. â�?�?He was definitely blue collar,â�? Marsh said, noting the impact on Tim Russertâ�?�?s work ethic. Marsh said he had not talked Friday with Neuharth about Russertâ�?�?s death. Neuharth was traveling and could not be reached, Marsh said, adding that Neuharth would not likely issue an immediate statement. Marsh expressed surprise upon realizing a decade had passed since the shared spotlight with Russert at that joint USD press conference. â�?�?Tim Russert was a role model to me and all journalists,â�? Marsh said. â�?�?I aspire to achieve the standard he set.â�?

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