Honoring Dr. Mel

By Jerry Dunklee
Board member

Much was written about Dr. Mel Goldstein in the days following his death at 66. He garnered the attention in Connecticut he deserved. He was special and his brave fight against cancer and other ailments for more than 15 years is testament to his courage.

But there is another reason to celebrate Dr. Mel’s career. He broke many of TV’s cherished “rules” and was extraordinarily popular and indeed, loved.

TV news has become a more and more cosmetic business. If you aren’t beautiful, it is tough to work these days in local TV news. Consultants, and some viewers, pay more attention to appearance than they do to smarts and journalism chops. They prefer a young, pretty model-like kid, to an experienced reporter who can tell you the facts clearly.

Dr. Mel proved this attitude is silly. He wasn’t pretty. In his later years, as he fought his cancer, he was stooped and balding. His teeth were not straight. But he knew weather, he loved talking about it and explaining it to people on the air in clear terms. He held a PhD., which many broadcast managers believe implies pedantic and “over-the-head” of viewers. Bull. Though he was very smart, he could explain and teach us what weather was coming and why while never talking down. He cared very much about his craft and about telling it straight. He was what he was.

And we loved him for it, because it was honest and authentic. When you watched Dr. Mel, you knew he respected viewers because he assumed they were intelligent. What a breath of fresh air.

Many journalists have heard the question asked of editors: “Would you rather have a great reporter or a great writer?” The answer from the best editors is always, “Both, but if I have to choose, I’d rather have a great reporter. The great writer tends to use writing skill to gloss over a lack of depth that makes stories weak.”

That’s like TV folk who get by on their looks, not their journalism chops.

News managers take note: Real communicators need not be model beautiful. They need to know their stuff, be good reporters and care about the audience getting clear information. Dr. Mel proved that over more than 25-years. He will be deeply missed.

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