Hot dogs and hamburgers, cole slaw and potato salad. Cookies and brownies. One week after Tim Russert died, his Washington bureau staff had a decidedly Russert-style barbeque today outside the building, “at picnic tables as he would have wanted,” Meet the Press executive producer Betsy Fischer tells TVNewser.
The lunch came courtesy of Russert’s widow, Maureen Orth, and son Luke Russert. Deputy bureau chief Wendy Wilkinson read a note from the two, thanking “all the employees for everything that we did last week in terms of coverage and support,” Fischer explains.
The flags that fly outside the bureau, the ones that had been at half staff since Russert’s death, were raised. “We all held hands, and had a moment of silence. It was nice,” Fischer says.
The remembrance comes as the grieving process continues for “every single one of us in the bureau,” Fischer continues. “It’ll be a long time before it’s business as usual.”
Fischer, who’s planning to finally take a few days off next week, has found that “doing work and just preparing for things has actually been therapeutic, to try to just kind of keep focused on what we need to do.”
That work has included producing last week’s Meet the Press, a tribute edition, and planning for this weekend’s program, moderated by Brian Williams. Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden will appear. The two were originally scheduled for last Sunday, a show Russert “was excited about doing,” Fischer says. A roundtable discussion with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and John Harwood will follow Graham and Biden. The show will close with clips of Russert remembrances, including excerpts from Wednesday’s memorial service.
As for the future, Fischer will not speculate on a permanent host. “It’s a discussion that we’re all having, and when we come up with something, we will announce it.” Nor is there word of who will moderate the June 29 program.
In the meantime, the show’s opening voiceover will continue to announce “This is Meet the Press, with Tim Russert,” with an acknowledgment of the moderator sitting in that day. It will remain that way, Fischer says, until a permanent moderator is chosen.
Regardless of who takes over the reigns as host, Fischer says the program will keep its focus, and “be the place to come on Sunday mornings. And I think our viewers expect that from us and the work that we do…We are going to stay that way, and cover the heck out of this campaign, just like we would if [Tim] was here.”