Newscaster Tim Russert Dies at 58

Journalists and politicans are reeling after the sudden death of Tim Russert on Friday.

"Thinking about tomorrow, that Tim is not going to be there, it's not something that is possible to accept," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said today on "Good Morning America." "It's almost impossible to believe."

"Those of us who knew and worked with Tim, his many friends, and the millions of Americans who loyally followed his career on the air will all miss him," President George Bush said in a statement.

"Tim Russert loved his country, he loved his family, he loved his job a lot," said President Bush from France.

Like many world leaders and politicians, Bush had been interviewed by Russert.

Russert, the veteran journalist best known as the moderator of NBC News' "Meet the Press," collapsed and died of a heart attack Friday while at work in Washington. He was 58 years old.

Russert had just returned from a family vacation to Italy with his wife, Maureen Orth, and son, Luke. They were traveling to celebrate Luke's graduation from Boston College.

Russert, vice president of NBC News, was recording voice-overs for Sunday's edition of "Meet the Press" when he collapsed, NBC said in a statement. A heart attack was the cause of death, according to Russert's doctor.

Known for posing hard-hitting questions to America's leading politicians and newsmakers, Russert joined the network in 1984 after working as an aide to New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In his 24 years at NBC, Russert worked as a political analyst for "Nightly News" and the "Today" show, and served as the NBC News Washington bureau chief.

The longest-running host in the 60-year history of the "Meet the Press," Russert took the helm in 1991, earning a reputation for asking his guests tough questions, often playing them previous statements they had made that contradicted comments or positions they professed to have.

Russert was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 7, 1950, the son of a sanitation worker. He was a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland and later the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. In 1976, he went to work on Daniel Patrick Moynihan's Senate campaign, and in 1982 he worked on Mario Cuomo's New York gubernatorial campaign.

In 2001, he received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence in Television Journalism for his March 2000 interview with Sen. John McCain. In 2005, he was awarded an Emmy for his role in the coverage of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan.

In 2008, he was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.

Russert's father was the focus of the first of two New York Times best-sellers, beginning with "Big Russ and Me," published in 2004. His second book, "Wisdom of Our Fathers," published in 2006, focused on the roles other people's fathers have played in their lives.

In addition to Russert's wife and son, he is survived by his father, Tim Russert, who he affectionately called "Big Russ."

Russert wrote a best-selling book about his relationship with his father, "Big Russ and Me," published in 2005. A book reviewer in Time magazine wrote, "Grown men have trouble embracing their fathers in public. Russert hugs his for 21 chapters."

"His real genius was to always keep his father and his father's friends in work-class Buffalo in mind as he interviewed politicians," Stephanopoulos said. "He really knew how to bring it home in a real, accessible way."

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