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MU alum Russ Mitchell discusses his broadcast career

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 | 2:23 p.m. CDT; updated 10:31 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Mafia is back, and Russ Mitchell is one of them.

This is not your typical mafia, but rather the name given to a core group of journalists who have graduated from MU.

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"It's not a myth," said Mitchell, a 1982 graduate. "We're everywhere."

Mitchell, a CBS News anchor and correspondent, will be the moderator of the President's Roundtable on Friday.

"It's quite an honor," he said. "We have some heavyweight hitters in the world of journalism and communication who are going to be there."

The discussion will take place at 1 p.m. Friday in Jesse Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. UM System President Gary Forsee, Mitchell and others will be examining questions such as:

  • What does convergence mean?
  • Why is it such a big issue these days?
  • What types of skills will employers be looking for in the future?

Convergence, which involves reporting across all possible media platforms, requires versatility as a journalist, Mitchell said.

"It helps your longevity in this business."

Mitchell — who was awarded the Missouri Medal last year, among other honors throughout his career — considers his opportunities to report and anchor big stories the highlights of his career.

When asked what he is most proud of, he recalled a series he and his team worked on at KTVI in St. Louis about street gangs in East St. Louis. The series eventually became part of the training program for the Illinois state police.

He also spent nearly seven hours on the anchor desk with Dan Rather on Sept. 11, 2001. The next day, he walked the streets of New York and talked to those affected by the tragedy, some still searching for loved ones.

"I'm never going to forget it," he said. "It was certainly a challenging time as a newsperson but also as a human being and someone who lives in New York."

As news anchor for "The Early Show," anchor for CBS Evening News Sunday Edition and correspondent for "Sunday Morning," Mitchell has been at CBS News for almost 17 years. He spent another 10 years in local television.

If Mitchell had been told in 1982 that he would be in his position today, he "probably would have looked at you like you were on some sort of illegal substance. I'd think you were joking," he said with a laugh. "I have been incredibly lucky."

Yet, he did not hesitate to say that hard work, passion for the job and thick skin are critical in the business of journalism.

Remembering his days as a journalism student, Mitchell recalled, "When you're first starting out, there are a lot of days when you get knocked down ,,, but it helped me develop a thick skin."

His career has taken him from KOMU to Kansas City, Dallas, St. Louis, New York, Washington, D.C., and finally back to New York.

After the six-month stay in Kansas City, he began to understand why someone once told him to keep his bags packed.

"I think for most people, you're constantly moving, you're tying to get to that next level, working your way toward whatever your goal is," Mitchell said.

The goal should not be money or vanity, Mitchell warned. "This is not something you want to do because you want to see your face on TV or read your byline. This is something you do because you love the news.

"You love being that person who scoops the competition and gets that nugget of information they don't have."

 

 


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