While many people employ a simple stainless-steel rod to hang their towels, Garrett Russo, the new communications director for Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), drapes his over the two Emmys he won as a broadcast journalist.
If that doesn’t make clear that there’s no love lost between Russo and the industry that launched his career, this description of his awards elaborates on their significance to him: “They’re big, golden paperweights, and that’s about all they are.”
Don’t misunderstand. The 27-year-old is proud of his accomplishments in journalism but decided to leave television news so that he could focus on issues he sees as more important, such as the 2008 election season.
“I got tired of calling car accidents ‘breaking news,’ ” said Russo, who worked in the Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington television-news markets. “I got tired of getting home for the day and looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What did I do? What did I add to the conversation?’ And, you know, feeling like I needed a shower. It’s just not something I wanted to do anymore.”
Russo won his first Emmy for his work as a student-executive producer on a University of Miami cable news show. His second came as a reporter at a Las Vegas station. Inspired by the drive-through marriages of celebrities like Britney Spears and Nicki Hilton, Russo launched an investigation into the ease with which the city’s marriage-license bureau would release applicants’ personal information. His piece, called “Closing the Identity-Theft Loophole,” resulted in a change of law so that marriage-license applicants’ personal information would no longer be freely released.
Russo’s now happily in Washington, a career location he had in mind for several years.
“I wanted to be here for the ’08 election, and originally I thought I wanted to be here as a journalist,” he said. “That kind of went by the wayside, but hey, I’m here, [and] I want to get in the game.”