West Virginia University
25 Oct
Ben Russell photo Ben Russell’s (BSJ, 2003) rise to the fifth largest television market in the country was no coincidence. Hard work and raw talent has the former Mountaineer packing his bags for NBC 5/KXAS-TV in Dallas, Texas. Read the Q&A with Russell to learn more.

SOJ: What originally led you to WVU?

Russell: Well, it [Morgantown] is my hometown. Actually, I had no intention of majoring in journalism. I had it in my head that I was going to be a lawyer. I intended to major in political science, but when I showed up at freshmen orientation, my name was not at the political science table—it was at the journalism table. I don’t remember who I talked to, but they said if I stayed with journalism I would learn to write, research, present myself—things along those lines. I tell people that I kind of “Forrest Gumped” my way into journalism school because I don’t know if it was anything I did, I was just there at the right time and then it happened.

When did you realize journalism was right for you?

I was kind of hooked in my first journalism class—Journalism 101. The first class I took where I thought, “WOW, I think this is what I’m going to do with my life,” was Broadcast News 386 [Beginning Television Reporting] with Professor Dahlia. I saw television reporting as something I could sink my teeth into.

Where did you work after graduation?

My first job was at WDTV in Bridgeport, W.Va. I started there in the spring semester of my junior year. I worked on air as a part-time weekend reporter. After graduation, I worked there full-time for a little over three years. I then worked in Harrisburg, Pa., [CBS 21 News] for three years.

What are your thoughts on moving to Dallas, Texas—the fifth largest television market in the country?

I want to do this. I have a lot of things left to learn. I know this move will help me get a lot better than I am right now. I’m looking forward to going to Dallas where I can look at people on a daily or regular basis and say, “WOW, that guy is good or geez, that lady knows her stuff.” At the end of the day, I want to be the best reporter I can be.

What do you think got you this far in your career?

I think a lot of it has to do with getting a grasp on what it is that we [television journalists] do. There’s no reason, in my opinion, that just because we make news that we should lose sight of the fact that we also make television. At the end of the day, we are two things—journalists who are trying to inform our communities and who are trying to do good work. But we are also something that people can turn on and turn off. People don’t have to watch the news. There are so many options on television. I want to be the guy that people want to watch.

What advice do you have for current students?

I think you need to assess your work critically. You need to watch your stuff—even if it stinks. It takes a long time to feel comfortable in terms of live TV. There will be a lot of awkward moments, but once you’re comfortable, that’s when the fun starts.

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