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On the Record with Russ Mitchell
Russ Mitchell, the former CBS weekend news anchor now calls WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio his professional and personal home. After more than a decade at the network level, he’s seen and lived quite a lot. In the second of our two-part conversation, I asked Mr. Mitchell his thoughts on power brokers in news, Bryant Gumbel and newsroom diversity.
“One of the most important features in a newsroom is a diverse staff…you get different perspectives. I don’t think you can be an effective newsroom in 2012 without having a diverse news staff. With the world as it is right now, its more important than ever to get the perspectives of many different groups. It’s incredibly important. It’s always been important but more so today.”
He went on to say that things have gotten better but there’s a long way to go. “I tell people all the time, we need diversity on camera but the people who make decisions in this business are mostly behind the scenes.”
In reflecting on the ‘glass ceiling’ among network journalists of color, it’s noticeable that in our nations’ changing demographic, television news networks seem to be willing to assign people or color to a weekend news anchor slot. Think Carole Simpson, Lester Holt, and obviously Russ Mitchell. But no tv network since CNN’s Bernard Shaw has solo anchored a network newscast. Is this changing?
The veteran journalist who has lived the experience says, “It’s important to have news presidents, news vice presidents, news directors and people in important positions of color. I think its imperative. I don’t think you have ever seen a person of color as a network news president. The big decisions are made behind the scenes, the editorial decisions, the hiring decisions, the decisions as to which decisions are behind the scenes. Its imperative to have more people of color in these positions. We have a hell of a long way to go on this front.”
Recalling an era in morning television when Bryant Gumbel started on the Today Show. There were questions- pundits asking “Is America ready to wake up for a black man?” Gumbel turned out to be one the most successful morning anchors in morning news history. Mitchell says, “He was like the Jackie Robinson for morning network news.”
And today as Russ Mitchell’s career demonstrates one can also have power and influence in front of the camera. Russ Mitchell is the lead anchor and managing editor at WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio.