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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Respectfully Disagree

Something’s been bugging me since Tim Russert passed away last week, and I have to say it, even if I come off sounding like a mean SOB.

A few obituaries gave Russert credit for "reinventing Sunday morning television." While I respect Tim Russert’s accomplishments and talents, that is simply wrong.

ABC’s Roone Arledge and David Brinkley changed the face of Sunday morning television in 1981, ten years before Tim Russert took over "Meet the Press" on NBC. Arledge saw an opportunity to do something different on Sunday mornings, a forgotten and neglected time period. He got the network to cancel "Animals, Animals, Animals" and "Issues and Answers." The latter was ABC’s little watched clone of "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation." I don't remember "Animals, Animals, Animals," but I think I know what it was about.

In the place of those two shows came "This Week with David Brinkley." It began with a news summary, a set up piece explaining the week’s big issue, a newsmaker interview, a roundtable discussion and a closing commentary. In other words, the same format NBC started using when "Meet the Press" expanded to an hour in 1991.

Tim Russert was a talented interviewer and broadcaster who died too young. He will be missed. Russert was a tremendous asset to journalism in general and NBC in particular, but Arledge and Brinkley were the ones who opened the door.