Memphis radio host Ben Ferguson reflects on Tim Russert - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Ben Watson

Memphis radio host Ben Ferguson reflects on Tim Russert

As the nation looks back at the life of NBC's political commentator Tim Russert, Mid-southerners like Ben Ferguson are also reflecting on the legendary broadcaster's life and passion for politics.

A local bookstore has already sold out of all of Russert's books, including his best seller "Big Russ and Me" about Russert's relationship with his father.

But Russert's death has affected Memphis native Ferguson on a more personal level.

"He was a big kid, and he understood what really mattered in life," said Ferguson.

Russert was a mentor to Ferguson, a conservative radio host with his own nationally-syndicated program, The Ben Ferguson Show.

A chance encounter at NBC's Washington studios in 2004 resulted in a special friendship.

Ferguson was in the green room preparing for a television interview when Russert walked in. Ferguson, who was 24-years-old at the time, was one of the youngest commentators breaking into the competitive world of television and radio. Russert took an immediate interest in Ferguson and gave the young Memphian some sobering advice: "If you want to make a difference in your world, and I think you really do, when you go on TV, you have to be memorable. Anyone can be decent, but when you leave, you want people talking about what you said for days."

Russert told Ferguson that there was room for improvement if he wanted to become a national broadcaster.

About two years later, the two men's paths crossed once again, this time in New York. Russert told Ferguson that he had watched him in a recent interview and could see definite improvement. Russert told Ferguson that he was "more on fire" and that his apearance was "somewhat memorable - you still need to work on it."

Ferguson says Russert's straightforwardness and intellect inspired him and many other broadcasters over the years.

"You know, he had politicians that admired him and respected him. Look at all the quotes that have come out -- they all feared him, they all admired him, and they all respected him," said Ferguson.

And as for the coverage of the upcoming presidential election, Ferguson says it won't be the same without Tim Russert.


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