2008_06_russert2.jpgReports say that NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and host of Meet the Press Tim Russert has died. It's believed he had a heart attack. A source told the NY Post he collapsed in the Washington Bureau. NBC News now confirms Russert's death and says he was recording voiceovers for Sunday's Meet the Press.

The NY Times reports that at 3:39 p.m., retired anchor Tom Brokaw went on the air to announce Russert's death.

“Our beloved colleague,” a grave Mr. Brokaw called him, one of the premier journalists of our time. He said this was one of the most important years in his life, with his deep engagement in the network’s political coverage, and that he “worked to the point of exhaustion.” Mr. Brokaw said Mr. Russert was a true child of Buffalo and always stayed in touch with his blue collar roots and “the ethos of that community.”

He said Mr. Russert had just moved his father, who is in his late 80s, from one facility to another in Buffalo. He said he loved his family, his Catholic faith, his country, politics, the Buffalo Bills, the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals.

“This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice,” Mr. Brokaw said.

Video of Brokaw announcing his death below. Russert had just returned from a trip to Italy with his family. His survivors include wife Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair, and son Luke; they had been celebrating Luke's graduation from Boston College.

Russert, who started in politics working for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Governor Mario Cuomo, was hired by NBC in 1984 and became Washington bureau chief in 1988. He had hosted Meet the Press since 1991, but his insightful political analysis reached even broader audiences during the 2000 election: When it was unclear how the election would turn, Russert used a dry erase board to explain the electoral college count. His use of a dry erase board was selected by TV Guide and TV Land as one of the 100 Most Memorable moments (#68) back in 2004.

Also in 2004, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote a feature on him, "Tim Russert is the quintessential Washington insider, a man with tentacles deep into the political and media worlds, one of the few journalists in a puffed-up, preening profession who really matter." This year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people.

NBC News recently revealed ambitious plans for covering the Democratic and Republican conventions--20 hours of live coverage each day; Russert would have provided coverage and analysis of the vice-presidential and presidential candidates' acceptance speeches. Here's how Russert predicted electoral maps for the 2008 election back in April, looking at possible Obama vs. McCain and Clinton vs. McCain matchups.

Russert, who regularly contributed to radio station WTOP, had discussed the Obama's campaign's new website to fight myths about Obama this morning (MP3).