5 Questions For… Russ Mitchell

By Alissa Krinsky 

CBS’ Russ Mitchell anchors the Sunday CBS Evening News, is news anchor for The Early Show and reports for CBS News Sunday Morning. Mitchell, a Missouri native, started on-air at Kansas City’s KMBC-TV, later working at Dallas’ WFAA-TV, and St. Louis’ KTVI-TV and KMOV-TV. At CBS News, Mitchell has anchored overnights on Up to the Minute, reported for newsmagazine Eye to Eye, and served as Washington correspondent.

1. TVNewser: In 2007, it’s still important that networks air an evening newscast, because…
Mitchell: While it is true this is not 1966, or even 1976, when there were fewer choices out there, tens of millions of Americans still turn to the network evening newscasts for the definitive look at the day’s news. The truth is, the network news divisions have been in this game longer than anyone else and there is still a large audience that has depended on us and trusted us for years. However, it’s no secret that the average age of a 6:30PM network news viewer is around 60, so, of course, the trick is to bring younger viewers into the tent. I don’t think anyone is ignoring that fact, while at the same time trying to stay true to the core audience. I’m confident that through new media like the Internet, those younger viewers will discover us and at some point make us a part of their regular viewing habits.

2. TVNewser: As a journalist, I’ve always admired the work of:
Mitchell: I’m one of those very lucky people who has had the chance to either work with or learn from some of my heroes in this business. Julius Hunter, a former anchor at KMOV-TV, the CBS affiliate in my home town of St. Louis, was one of the first people to inspire me in television journalism. Others over the years have included Bryant Gumbel, Dan Rather, Bob Costas and the late Ed Bradley.

3. TVNewser: The television newsmagazine format is:
Mitchell: 60 Minutes remains the granddaddy and the most successful newsmagazine in history, so the format is certainly alive and well. Also, 48 Hours Mystery continues to dominate Saturday nights for us at CBS. I’ve heard media scholars theorize that in the 1990’s there were just too many prime time newsmagazines out there and after a while the public became burned out. That sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. Right now, I have the good fortune of being one of the correspondents on CBS News Sunday Morning. It really is a one-of-a-kind newsmagazine and it would be great for both journalists and the public if there were more programs out there like it.

4. TVNewser: My first job in TV news, as a KTVI night switchboard operator, taught me…
Mitchell: I learned so much in that job! I guess most importantly I had the chance to see how a television operation works, get a first-hand lesson in the politics of a TV newsroom and watch professional journalists do their jobs. I was a 17-year-old high school senior and the people there could not have been nicer. It is such a small business. In fact, years later I ended up working at CBS News in New York and Washington with a few of those people whom I came in contact with while answering phones at KTVI.

5. TVNewser: My favorite memory from anchoring overnights on Up to the Minute:
Mitchell: On the afternoon of Sunday, March 29, 1992, I walked from my relocation apartment in New York to the CBS Broadcast Center to interview then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton for our first Up To The Minute broadcast, which would air at 2AM the next day.

After the interview, I walked back to the apartment for a nap to rest up for my overnight duties. It turned out that CBS had released a portion of the interview to our radio stations. As I was falling asleep with my radio on I heard myself asking Bill Clinton a question and then the newscaster saying, “…that was Russ Mitchell from the CBS News broadcast Up To The Minute.” For a guy who for years had dreams of being at CBS News, I really thought I was dreaming.