WASHINGTON -- Journalists from around the nation converged on the nation's capital yesterday to attend a memorial service for "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert and then applied for his job.
"We have lost a valued colleague and role model whose legacy of fairness and tenacity are irreplaceable," said one newsman, wiping tears from his face during the gathering at Kennedy Center. "Do you think they'd start me at what he was making?"
The grief hit especially hard at out-of-town newsmen from medium market stations.
Les Williams, anchor at WJLJ in Bismarck, N.D., said he spoke for many when he said Russert was viewed as a guiding figure on which to model countless careers.
"He had this direct lighting about him. It hid the double chin and made his hair look fuller. We don't have the crew for that sort of thing in Bismarck. God I hope they're at least going to look at my audition tapes," Williams said, pocketing a dozen funeral cards to impress his children and colleagues back in North Dakota.
Among the mourners were Russert's old comrades from his years as an aide to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
"What a lot of people don't know about Tim was that he was a real advocate for the cause when he served as a Senate aide," said Daniel Woodburn, who worked with Russert on Capitol Hill. "This was a tenacious but fair guy who could get things done without the kind of hard feelings that hover in this area. It was exhausting work. Damned exhausting. I've had it and I sure do think that if he could make the transition from politics to journalism I should, too. Why can't lightning strike twice?"
A cortege more than a mile long followed Russert's casket to a suburban Washington cemetery where his old pastor, the Rev. Conor Fitzwilliams, offered a prayer. Commending Russert's soul to God, the Rev. Fitzwilliams urged mourners to "remember the Tim we knew so well, but more importantly, to honor that memory by carrying on his tradition. I know I'm going to try to do that and if the vice president for news of NBC is here, I'd like a word with him after we're finished."