"He was very interested in the show and took an active and passionate interest in what we were doing," says Kalb, who now serves as the executive director of the Washington, D.C. office of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.
Russert moved up quickly in NBC's ranks, participating in daily conference calls to coordinate all of the network's news programs.
"Meet the Press" senior producer Betsy Fischer says Russert impressed his NBC bosses during the calls with his in-depth knowledge of the political scene.
"The producers realized that they ought to put this on the air, because they were learning more [about politics from Russert] from the conference calls than from anything else," Fischer says.
Politics, colleagues agree, defines Russert.
"He sleeps, eats and drinks politics," Fischer says.
"He is a political animal," Kalb says.
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