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She is best known for anchoring prime time newscasts on CNN Headline News from 1983 to 2001, which made her the first woman to anchor a nationally-televised prime time news program. She has also served as a substitute news reader on then-CBC Newsworld from May 2006 until early 2008. She primarily anchored the one-minute newscasts called "CBC News: Now" at the top of every hour throughout the primetime schedule of then-CBC Newsworld.
In college, Russell studied nursing, but dropped out and started working at a Colorado radio station, first as a receptionist, later as a DJ and talk radio host. She was a field anchor for WTLV in Jacksonville, Florida. Afterward she became a co-anchor at WTLV, working at KHON in Honolulu, Hawaii and KENS in San Antonio before moving to CNN.
Russell, as popular evening anchor of CNN Headline News, was the first woman to become the regular, solo anchor of a daily evening prime time newscast on a television network.
After CNN, Russell wrote her autobiography, How to Win Friends, Kick Ass, and Influence People (1999), and is a licensed private detective and sheriff's deputy. She has 2nd degree black belt in the martial art of Choi Kwang- do. She also made hand-crafted lampshades and sold them from her Web site, but she stopped the business at least temporarily since moving to Canada in 2005.
Russell and her then-husband, Thomas Beck, moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada in July 2005. Beck, a German citizen, is the current president and CEO of the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. They separated in 2010. In May 2006, Russell became a news reader for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's CBC Newsworld all-news cable channel. She has said previously that her goal was to ease herself into the role of news reader part-time and, as a result, can be seen during the late afternoon and evening hours of Fridays anchoring CBC Newsworld's one-minute headline-style newscast (CBC News: Now) at the top of every hour, between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. EST. During the summer months, she also fills in as news anchor of various news programs, including the Newsworld's flagship CBC News: Today.
Russell presented on CFRB-1010 AM radio in Toronto for her new Saturday afternoon show from 2008 to 2010. In 2008 she hosted the 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. time slot.