It's just minutes before Channel 3's newscast, and Russ Mitchell slips a small black disc out of his pocket.
"Mac No. 42," he says, opening the compact and dusting his face with a sheen of powder. "I know far more than any man should know about cosmetics."
It's a necessary weapon against the 50-plus spotlights that hang from the ceiling like paper lanterns in Channel 3's studio, exposing every shine and flaw of skin.
Mitchell steps to his mark beside co-anchor Kris Pickel, removes his round, wire-framed glasses, and launches into the night's top story about a high school basketball coach accused of putting video cameras in a boys' locker room.
He glides through the half-hour newscast with an unflappability that comes just as much from his personality as from his 31 years experience in broadcast news. He shifts effortlessly from delivering the headlines to on-screen banter to off-air chitchat.
Before arriving in Cleveland a year ago as managing editor and lead anchor of Channel 3's 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, Mitchell spent 20 years on the national stage as a correspondent and anchor for CBS News.
His return to local news — and to Cleveland where he has no personal connection — puzzled many. Cleveland was the place that offered the kind of family-friendly lifestyle he remembered from his St. Louis roots, along with the opportunity to have "an editorial voice" at the station.
"Do I miss the canvas I had? Yes," he says. "But I have a sense of community I didn't have before."
Mitchell has connections to many of the biggest stories of the last two decades. He spent seven hours beside Dan Rather on Sept. 11, 2001, covering the terrorist attacks from CBS' New York studio. He anchored the network's coverage of the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and has reported from Congo and Indonesia.
But he also ranks coverage of the Chardon school shooting last February among the most meaningful stories of his career, and points to Channel 3's activism in the Issue 107 campaign as an example of the power of local news.
"It's tough, if not impossible, to dive in like that on the national level," he says.
The life of a national correspondent meant unexpected travel, so the move to Cleveland brought more predictability for Mitchell, his wife, Karina, and their blended family of four children: Ashley, 22, Nikhil, 17, Sherina, 14, and Anjali, 5.
"If I had a nickel for every dinner I missed," he says. "I remember my now-22-year-old, who was 9 when I went to Bosnia, saying •Why do you have to go?' "
Mitchell caught the news bug in high school, after attending a journalism workshop at the University of Missouri. At 17, he got an evening job answering phones at KTVI-TV.
"I remember being so pumped," Mitchell says. "If I hadn't said yes [to the night switchboard job], I don't know where I would be right now."