Melissa Ross

Host/Producer, "First Coast Connect"

"First Coast Connect" host/producer Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting. 

As executive producer of "The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State," Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the documentary category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. "The 904" examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital.

WJCT’s "First Coast Connect" has received multiple national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. for best call-in program.

Prior to joining WJCT, Melissa spent three years in the corporate communications field at Jacksonville’s Dalton Agency. During her stint at Dalton, she was cast in the HBO film "Recount" playing — what else? — a reporter!

Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Communications. She also writes for the Florida Politics blog. 

Ways to Connect

www.mikewilliamsforsheriff.com

Calling himself the most experienced candidate in the race, Republican Mike Williams says the JSO "needs to do more" to reach out to communities in Jacksonville who don't trust or cooperate with the police.

Ken Jefferson for Sheriff

Taking a veiled swipe at the current Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer leadership, Ken Jefferson says that if he's elected sheriff he won't "govern from behind the desk."

"I want to re-introduce the Police Department back to the community," said Jefferson, the Democratic candidate in the race to replace outgoing Sheriff John Rutherford.  

"What I'm finding out from my walks and talks all over the city is that people basically see 'drive-by cops.' There's no interaction."

www.weswhite.com

The man hoping to unseat Jacksonville-based State Attorney Angela Corey says he's doing it to restore public confidence in the leadership of Florida's Fourth Circuit.

"Prosecutors have to work in the court of public opinion as well as the courtroom," says challenger Wes White.

Cultural Fusion

Several Jacksonville organizations are celebrating the St. Johns River through art.

The "Year of the River" is an ongoing initiative, and many arts and culture groups — including WJCT — are taking part.

Cultural Fusion is celebrating the St. Johns River all throughout 2015 as the "cultural current of our city" with an entire year of programming by more than 50 cultural and environmental institutions.

In an interview on "First Coast Connect," Hope McMath, director of the Cummer Museum, discussed some of the museums contributions to the project.

FSCJ / Facebook

He was a college football star at the University of Nebraska.

Then Jason Peter went on to become an NFL first-round draft pick, playing defensive end for the Carolina Panthers for four seasons.

Peter was also an addict, though, and it all started with painkillers to treat injuries he suffered on the field.

"I remember the first time I was given some pills, maybe four or six of them," he said on First Coast Connect. "And I liked the way they made me feel."

Mayor Alvin Brown / Facebook

Facing strong challenges in the March 24 unitary election this week, incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown says he's confident— and that he's fulfilled the campaign promises from four years ago that made him a come-from-behind winner in Jacksonville's 2011 mayoral race.

"I made a promise that I would streamline government, that we would live within our means, put Jacksonville back to work, and close the education gap," said Brown, appearing on First Coast Connect.

"I think the key is keeping your promise."

Early voting is underway in Duval County for the Mar. 24 citywide unitary election, and although voters are concerned about issues affecting Jacksonville, many voters are still unfamiliar with the candidates running for office.

A new poll from UNF’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory shows that crime tops the list of concerns among likely voters in Duval County.

Following that voters care about education and the local economy.

The poll also shows strong voter support for expanding Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance.

The Children's Campaign

Some Jacksonville advocates want to help teens avoid a lifetime label. That’s why they’re supporting Florida legislation that would keep juvenile arrest records confidential.

Even if a teen is exonerated after an arrest, just being arrested can often label a kid as “trouble" for the rest of their lives.

Since many employment and college applications require disclosing an arrest, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for a juvenile with an arrest record to find and keep a job, enroll in college, obtain scholarships, enlist in the military, get housing and more.

ONLY IN FLORIDA, our weekly roundup of the strange, bizarre and just plain ridiculous events that happened right here in the Sunshine State, is back on the web!

ONLY IN FLORIDA does the phenomenon that is known as Sharknado steal the thunder of our coastline’s real sharks.

Shannon LeDuke / WJCT

A new set of rules guiding the Internet in the United States are expected to go into effect after a Federal Communications Commission vote this month. The commission is expected to to start regulating the Internet as a public utility.

Net neutrality is the term advocates use to promote a free and open Internet.

They are against the creation of a two-tiered system online — slow speeds or lanes for small companies, and faster speeds for rich ones who have more money to pay for it.

A citywide day of service is coming up this weekend. Hundreds of women and girls will lead the way at the first-ever Generation WORKS.

This Saturday, women and their daughters will be wielding weapons of mass construction at a slew of improvement projects around town.

Generation WORKS is an outgrowth of Generation W, the women’s leadership conference created by Donna Orender.

Wikimedia Commons

Dr. John Lovejoy is the respected Jacksonville orthopedic surgeon whose heroic efforts in earthquake-stricken Haiti were captured on film in the award-winning documentary Angels of Milot.

The 2010 earthquake there, which registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, is on record as the worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere.

Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church

Two local pastors are challenging the old saw about Sunday being the most segregated hour of the week.

The chances for another member of the Bush family to run for office may have increased, as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared official interest by attacking President Obama’s stance on relations with Cuba.

Bush announced this week he will explore a run for presidency in 2016, as well as call for a stronger embargo against Cuba.

“I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relations with them until there are substantive changes on the island,” Bush told Miami Herold reporter Marc Caputo Wednesday morning.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s the time of year when many of us bemoan the commercialization of Christmas. We mourn the loss of the “reason for the season.”

But actually, the symbols of Christmas and the entire ‘holiday season’ are in many ways a product of commercialization, says Nathan Rousseau, sociology professor at Jacksonville University and author of Society Explained.

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