Lynne Russell (born November 1, 1946 in Orange, New Jersey) is an American journalist and author. She was the first woman to solo anchor a prime time network nightly newscast, as the popular host of CNN Headline News from 1983 to 2001. While her resume’ includes local television and radio markets from Miami to Honolulu, she is best known for her work on CNN and on CNN Headline News.
Early life and education
Russell, an only child, studied classical Russian ballet and piano from the age of seven. Her mother was of Italian descent, one of seven children of Neopolitan immigrants who had a small grocery store in New Jersey; her father, one of nine children born on a family farm in Leeds, North Dakota, was of Irish and German background. Russell grew up in the military, as an "Army brat". Her father was a career U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer, and the family moved frequently. Consequently, she attended thirteen schools before graduating from Manzano High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had planned on a career in the Foreign Service, fascinated by the travel and freedom her mother’s only unmarried sibling, Maria, enjoyed in the diplomatic service, so Russell began picking up languages in high school. But her mother prevailed upon her to be more practical and pursue a line of work in which she could “always find a job”, and she enrolled in the School of Nursing at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Denver.
Discovering nursing did not suit her emotionally, Russell was in need of work and took her first job out of college at a music radio station, KCOL (AM) in Ft. Collins, Colorado, where she spent four years learning journalism from the ground up. This was followed by seven years in Miami, Florida at WKAT (AM), whose format was Talk, News and Information. She co-hosted the 6-10am program, “The Informer”, and served as Program Director. Russell also contributed to Miami public television station WPBT (PBS); she acted in - and voiced - television and radio commercials and industrial films, and was a member of the Screen Actors Guild. She then worked at Infinity Broadcasting Corporation’s Jacksonville, Florida radio station, WIVY (FM). At that time she was approached to begin her television news career, as Jacksonville NBC affiliate WTLV news director Howard Kelley asked her to anchor their evening Action News with Peter Burns. This happened the day after Russell’s boss had put his fist through the control room door at the radio station, because she had broken format and neglected to play a Bee Gees song. Russell grabbed the TV job.
WTLV gave way to Honolulu, Hawaii NBC affiliate KHON, where she anchored, worked the military beat and reported on health stories. In addition, her days began at 4am, telephoning Oahu’s neighbor islands looking for news to report in the NBC Today Show local slots. After a sleepless year, she moved back to the mainland as Investigative and Courts Reporter and evening Eyewitness News anchor with Fred Lozano at CBS affiliate KENS in San Antonio, Texas.
CNN and CNN Headline News
In January 1983, media mogul Ted Turner’s staff contacted Russell at KENS in San Antonio and asked her to move to Atlanta, Georgia, where Cable News Network had just established itself as the first 24-hour television news outlet. Its new sister network, known then as CNN2, would televise 48, half-hour newscasts every day. Russell said yes. She stayed until May, 2001. She became the first woman to solo anchor a prime time network nightly newscast, as the popular host of CNN Headline News from 1983 (it would be another 23 years before another network, CBS, would give a nightly newscast to a woman) to 2001.
Russell is credited with playing a major role in the development and history of the CNN networks. In an effort to boost network visibility, she hosted special programming for airline travelers. And from 1983 to 1989 she co-anchored the CNN Week In Review program, with Bob Cain. She introduced America’s educators to the original concept of cable in the classroom, which teachers embraced in the form of CNN Week In Review programs and study guides. She was honored with the inaugural “Russell P. Jandoli Excellence in Journalism Award” from St. Bonaventure University.
In 1989, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, she combined her connections to the military and to her colleagues by pinning the coveted Air Assault badge on CNN’s first Special Assignments Correspondent, friend, and current fiancė, Chuck de Caro, upon his graduation from the US Army Air Assault School.
Russell resigned from the networks to help care for her ailing spouse, who later recovered, but from whom she is now divorced. Her final newscast on CNN Headline News came on May 18, 2001. Fellow anchor, Chuck Roberts, who had delivered the inaugural newscast on that network, produced a short retrospective of Russell’s time at CNN. It aired that night: Lynne Russell - last newscast on Headline News . The same channel, now known as HLN, is not a part of the original network.
In 2005, Russell accompanied her then-husband, who had recovered from his illness, to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she focused on writing, but kept her hand in the media. From 2006 to 2008, she anchored on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television network “CBC Newsworld”. From 2008 to 2010, she hosted a radio program on CFRB (AM) Newstalk 1010. She also acquired an Ontario real estate license and traded in real estate with a brokerage there.
She currently divides her time among Washington, DC, Toronto and Atlanta.
1993 to present: Private Detective in the State of Georgia. She maintains a strict level of privacy for her clients. When her favorite interviewer, the legendary Tom Snyder, asked her to appear on the final week of his program, The Late, Late Show on CBS, to discuss some of her most celebrated cases, she declined because of privacy concerns, and was bitterly disappointed.
1996 to 2005: Deputy Sheriff in Fulton County, Georgia, Reserve Division. Besides Jail Officer, her duties included traffic, appropriations, communications and courthouse security during the trial of former Black Panther H. Rap Brown (Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin), now serving a life sentence for the murder of a Fulton County deputy.
From 2010: Storyteller In Residence at Centennial College School of Journalism, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her students are Centennial College undergraduates, as well as University of Toronto post-graduate sports journalism students. Russell’s recurring message is that journalists, who are privileged to be the eyes and ears of the public, bear great responsibility to maintain objectivity and simply tell the story.
She creates very high-end, one-of-a-kind Italian silk lampshades, and markets them through Benevento Lampshade Company.
Russell retains her passion for red lipstick, although she was prevailed upon by Turner Security to cease wearing it on CNN, after some male viewers thought she was sending them messages with the color. She sells her version of red lipstick, Lynne Russell Red, as well as other favorites on www.lynnerussell.com
Russell has written numerous books, magazine articles and online pieces including:
2011 to present: Lynne Russell’s Blog: www.lynnerussell.blogspot.com
2012: Hell On Heels (Amazon.com). The first of a trilogy of novels whose heroine, P.J. Santini, is a Buffalo, New York television reporter who, like Russell, is also a private investigator and a woman of Italian descent with “a weakness for dangerous men and high heels”. The Toronto Star calls P.J. Santini "the love child of Janet Evanovich and Elmore Leonard". The second novel, Heels of Fortune, is due out by Thanksgiving 2013.
2011: Public Broadcasting System’s MediaShift…Your Guide To The Digital Media Revolution (August 22, 2011): “Teaching Journalism in an Age When News Comes to You”
1999: How to Win Friends, Kick Ass and Influence People…a memoir (St. Martin’s Press). According to actor, comedian and author Richard Belzer (Homicide: Life on the Street), “If Xena, Warrior Princess, could come to life and tell her secrets, this would be her book.”
Video appearances include:
1996: Crook & Chase television show (February 26)
1995: Extra The Entertainment Magazine - Source: IMDb.com Internet Movie Database
1994: Late Night with Conan O'Brien (TV series)- Herself –Episode dated 25 July 1994 (1994) … Herself
1993: The War Room (documentary) - Herself
1988: Tanner '88 (TV series)- Herself –The Boiler Room (1988)
- Official site of Lynne Russell
- Lynne Russell at the Internet Movie Database
- Photos of Lynne Russell anchoring at Headline News
- The Soup Cans Interview: Lynne Russell
- Benevento Lampshade Company
- Lynne Russell's Blog