As we reported last week, there’s a new face at WNBC. Fittingly, Shiba Russell, a New Jersey native, starts as the station’s new weekend anchor (alongside David Ushery) and weekday reporter today– Valentine’s Day.
“Family and friends are very important to me, especially when you have a child,” Russell says. “Moving to a market where you don’t know anyone doesn’t sound like a happy life to me.”
Some people may remember Russell, who cut her TV news chops in New York, at Cablevision’s Neighborhood News 12 in 1998. Staying in the company, she moved to News 12 The Bronx, where she worked from 1999 to 2002. During that time, she gained invaluable experience reporting on one of the nation’s most devastating days—September 11, 2001.
“The cops just let us go through; we were amazed we got so far. We were right there, just a few blocks down,” Russell recalls. “The city was just so quiet…It was such a long day. By the time the day was over, I drove home and I cried.”
Russell, a graduate of the College of New Rochelle, found that time extremely emotional.
“I had to wear sunglasses to every funeral because I was just sobbing every time I had to cover these funerals.”
Russell stayed at News 12 for another year before taking her nine-year journey from Pittsburgh to Boston. At WCVB in Boston, she was a popular weekend morning anchor and reporter.
“[They] treated me very well and I always had decided that if I’m going to move it has to be worth it,” Russell says. “So, I’m happy that WNBC is worth it.”
She says of paramount concern is career growth, not financial gain.
“It’s really never been about the money for me,” Russell admits. “Money’s nice, but I still kind of live my life like I’m making News 12 The Bronx money.
Now that she is here, there is the elephant in the room to discuss– veteran WNBC anchor Sue Simmons. Of course, Simmons makes up part of the legendary team with Chuck Scarborough.
Simmons, 67, returned to the air last month after missing three months from back surgery. Rumors have been rampant that Russell was Simmons’ heir-apparent.
Russell, though, would not get lulled into that conversation.
“I am a big fan of Sue, and I have been for a really long time,” Russell says. “She is a New York legend, a great journalist, [and] she paved the way for African-American female anchors like me.”
Having said that, Russell does have her own professional wants and desires.
“I would love for more opportunities to come down the road, but I think I need to prove myself first.”
While proving herself to management and the masses, Russell says there will be fill-in anchor chances during the week.
In the meantime, Russell hopes to make a connection with viewers. Along with having a great work ethic and ability to tell a story, she brings something unique to her WNBC work.
“I have, in my family, [something] called the ‘Russell Laugh,’” Russell says. “Wherever I work people always remember my laugh.”
On a more serious note, Russell says she has a knack for getting the elusive interview.
“I can get people to talk, [to] tell a great story, a memorable story, and one that connects with other viewers.”
With her talent and personality on display, positive reactions poured in from Russell’s demo tape.
“I knew it was my time,” Russell admits.