Answer Man

Why did rising star Luke Russert fall off the NBC radar?

Luke Russert
Luke Russert

Q: Why is Luke Russert no longer on MSNBC? After his father, Tim, who hosted “Meet the Press” on Sunday mornings for nearly 20 years, died, Luke was at MSNBC for a while, but I never see him anymore. He seemed to be a very nice young man. I felt so bad when he so suddenly lost his father, who was never afraid to ask the tough questions.

Shirley Volkers, of Highland

A: For political junkies and fans of his family, Luke Russert’s announcement last July 13 must have been tantamount to Babe Ruth retiring in the middle of the 1923 World Series or Einstein quitting after E=mc2.

Just five days before the Republican National Convention was to start, the young congressional correspondent announced that he was leaving NBC to think about his future. Two days later, he was gone.

“It has been a privilege and an honor for me to have worked for NBC News for the last eight years,” Russert wrote in a statement. “NBC News is family, and while it’s hard to leave, it’s the right decision for me at this time. Now at 30, I look forward to taking some time away from political reporting and focusing my efforts on other endeavors that I’ve long wanted to pursue.”

Russert long knew that critics had accused him of riding his father’s coattails into NBC on a wave of sympathy. Fresh out of Boston College, where he worked sports for ESPN and XM Satellite Radio, Russert was hired by NBC just a month after his father’s fatal heart attack to cover youth issues as part of the network’s 2008 presidential election coverage.

He immediately made an impact. His work in 2008 contributed to the network’s Emmy award for its election night coverage. In 2010, he made headlines by earning a grudging apology from U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) after Rangel had accused him of being too aggressive in going after Rangel on an ethics report that uncovered fiscal indiscretions and illegal donation solicitations. In February 2012, Russert’s debut on NBC’s “Dateline” earned an Emmy for Best Report in a News Magazine when he explored whether a murder conviction and subsequent life sentence had been justified. He also would host “The Briefing,” a web-only show on MSNBC.com that Russert likened to a “younger man’s Charlie Rose.”

But in his July statement, Russert suggested that the combination of his father’s sudden death and the opportunity of a plum job at one of the nation’s leading networks may have been too much too fast.

“It’s fair to say my broadcast career began in an unusual way after college graduation and the death of my father,” Russert wrote. “As a result, I threw myself into the work and never took the time to reflect, to travel and to experience many things that would have given me a clearer sense of what my future should be.”

Colleagues told CNN that Russert had grown tired of the daily grind and felt like if he didn’t get off the road he was on at least temporarily, he might regret it later.

“Of course, the viewers should also know how much I have appreciated their confidence in me,” he concluded. “Thank you.”

A quick search of his frequent Twitter posts offer little clue of what’s next. He went to Greece last summer and, as a sports junkie, is a member of the Buffalo Fan Alliance Board, a group that works to keep the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo. However, his frequent tweets show he has not forgotten politics. After President-elect Donald Trump made headlines by meeting with rapper Kanye West on Dec. 13, Russert criticized the media and the American populace for their tiny attention spans and failure to focus on more important issues.

“TV programmers/producers can’t say no to the low-hanging fruit right in front of them,” he tweeted. “So out goes (Donald Trump’s business) conflict, in comes Kanye.”

And there was this on Nov. 14, the day PBS NewsHour host Gwen Ifill died of cancer:

“I believe that right now Gwen Ifill and my father are grilling James Madison on the need for the Electoral College in ’16. Love ya, Gwen.”

Q: Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven” is a most beautiful treasure. But is there perhaps a more readable translation?

R.C., of Trenton

A: Since 1893, this oddly titled poem about God’s loving and never-ending pursuit of men’s souls, has found its way into countless literary works, including A.J. Cronin’s “A Pocketful of Rye” and Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca.” It also reportedly influenced “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote a paper on the English poet in 1914. Even Fox News reporter Kirsten Powers, in describing her journey from atheism and agnosticism to devout Christianity, said, “ ‘The Hound of Heaven’ had pursued me and caught me. ... ”

Unfortunately, since the poem was written in English, I haven’t been able to find a more easily understandable written interpretation. However, if you or someone you know has a computer, I strongly recommend going to YouTube.com and searching for the 16-minute video, “The Hound of Heaven A Modern Adaptation,” which you may find more accessible while remaining true to the spirit of the original.

Today’s trivia

What famous legal phrase is said to have arisen from “The Hound of Heaven”?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: In 1631, John Eliot, a Christian missionary, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to convert the Algonquian Indians to Christianity. Believing that the Indians would be more open to hearing the Scriptures in their native language, Eliot first learned the Natick dialect of the Massachusett language and then spent 14 years translating all 66 books of the English Bible. In 1663, “Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God” ( “The Whole Holy His-Bible God”) became the first Bible printed in British North America.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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