Inspiring Communicator: Mike Russo of the Star Tribune

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While I’ve always had the sort of vague, intuitive notion that my future career would involve writing, I was never pushed towards a particular career or field. Of course, this was before I started watching hockey.

When I was a freshman in high school, I became obsessed with the Minnesota Wild. I’m not using the term “obsessed” lightly here, either. No, I was watching games, buying jerseys and shirts, begging my parents to let me go to 8:00 games on school nights, watching too many YouTube videos of the team online, that sort of thing. Think of the insanity of Justin Bieber fans… and then apply it to hockey. That was me.

Through my Wild obsession, I discovered the genius of a writer that covers the team for the Trib (the Minnesotan name for its local paper, the Star Tribune). His name is Mike Russo, and I someday hope to have even a fraction of his awesomeness.

Russo began his “pro” career covering the NHL’s Florida Panthers before coming to Minnesota to cover the Wild. His style is smart, witty and sharp. His articles are easy to read and to the point, but they are still incredibly well-written and interesting. He’s won a slew of writing awards, and he even covered the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

There are two things that I especially admire about Russo. One is that he has a powerful social media presence. It’s like social media was made for his kind of style. On Twitter, he rarely uses all 140 characters when tweeting about games, yet he still manages to say a lot. He interacts with his audience and frequently answers fan questions through Twitter Q&As and online chats.

Another element of Russo’s writing style that I find impressive is his honesty and frankness. Though he covers the Minnesota Wild, he does not feel the need to promote them or hold back his opinion when the team is playing poorly. He will openly call out players when they are having bad games, but he is respectful with interviews in the locker room after a tough loss. He somehow finds a way to balance criticism with praise to maintain an unbiased view of the team. Most importantly, he doesn’t act like a fan, even though covering a team for as long as he has covered the Wild would convert anyone.

Russo has inspired me to follow the path of sports journalism. In my senior year of high school during my mentorship with Kevin Gorg, a reporter for Fox Sports North, I was lucky enough to shadow Russo for a night. His job is totally frantic and fast-paced, and it looks just like what I want my future job to be. Now, in college, I’ve started covering the Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team for The Daily Cardinal in hopes that someday I will land a job like Russo’s.

And none of it would’ve happened had I not developed an obsession.

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