New York — NBC News congressional reporter Luke Russert joined the network out of college following the death of his father, “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert. On Wednesday, he pushed the pause button on his political reporting career.
Russert, 30, said he’s leaving NBC News on Friday, at the eve of the national political conventions. He said the circumstances of his hiring never gave him the chance to figure out what his future should be, and now he wants to do it.
“NBC News is family and while it’s hard to leave, it’s the right decision for me at this time,” Russert said in a note to colleagues on Wednesday.
Russert’s father, the gregarious NBC News Washington bureau chief, towered over other broadcast political correspondents at the time of his sudden death from a heart attack in June 2008. Three months later, his 23-year-old son, hired by NBC to cover youth issues for the presidential campaign, was interviewing Barack Obama and John McCain for the “Today” show.
Following the campaign, NBC assigned him to cover Congress.
NBC Washington Bureau Chief Ken Strickland praised Russert on Wednesday as a dogged reporter.
“More than our go-to guy on the Hill, Luke grew to become one of the bureau’s most reliable utility players, covering everything from campaigns to natural disasters, from the White House to the Boston bombings and the Freddie Gray trial, and everything in between,” Strickland said.
Russert was familiar with the media growing up in Washington, and while in college co-hosted a sports talk program on Sirius XM radio with political consultant James Carville.
Not only was he thrust into the political reporting job at a time many of his peers were backpacking across Europe, he had to deal with the constant reminders and comparisons with his famous father.
He took note of the self-imposed pressure in an interview with The Associated Press shortly after he was hired. “The last thing I want to do is appear not qualified, to appear that it was just a nepotism hire, to appear that everything was just handed to (me),” he said. “I certainly acknowledge that the last name doesn’t hurt. But at the end of the day I don’t think a company like XM or NBC would be willing to spend money on me just for the sake of nepotism. I actually have to produce.”
On Wednesday, Russert said that it was fair to say his broadcast career began in an unusual way.
“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. 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.”
It’s not immediately clear what those endeavors might be, or whether they would include journalism.
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