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

Hens in Jax

Advocates of urban agriculture in Jacksonville are pressing the City Council not to chicken out (author's note: I had to do it) and to legalize domestic hens in residential areas.

A group called Hens in Jax is leading the charge.

April is the "awareness month" for a lot of things. Autism, jazz appreciation, even Confederate history (only in the Southern states, of course.)

But April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S., and since it's estimated 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, awareness is key.

We highlighted the topic on First Coast Connect by speaking with UNF criminology professor and author Dr. Jennifer Wesely. 

State lawmakers in Tallahassee are fast-tracking through the Legislature a proposal that would essentially eliminate permanent alimony in Florida, and also, presume most child custody arrangements begin with a 50-50 timesharing arrangement.

Senate Bill 718 does set guidelines for alimony based on the length of marriages. But permanent alimony would be virtually done away with, and instead would only last for a certain period of time, which would vary based on the circumstances of the divorce.

You opted for that little bag of Baked Lays at lunch instead of the full-fat version, and felt virtuous. It's the healthier choice, right?

Not necessarily.  Some foods may LOOK healthy, but understanding how food products are made and reading labels closely (one hint: the less ingredients, the better) is key to understanding what's truly good for you.

They were the notorious slave ships ferrying Africans from their homeland into bondage on U.S. shores.

The Middle Passage, or the route the slave ships took, brought more than 10 million people to America who would become slaves. Two million more died in the ocean crossing. 

The Middle Passage Project is now working to place historic markers around the Florida coast, at ports where the slave ships docked. Future sites of remembrance include Amelia Island and St. Augustine.

The Florida-Times Union

They're the pastors of a growing, biracial Jacksonville church. But Mike and Connie Smith are also garnering attention for a provocative study they recently published looking at the high rates of homicide in African-American communities.

It's a long, detailed piece - one the Florida Times-Union initially declined

Black smoke rose over the Vatican this morning.. a signal that the cardinals' conclave in Rome has not yet chosen a new pope.

The new pontiff will replace retiring Pope Benedict the 16th, and lead 1.2 billion Catholics around the  world.

He’ll also face deep divisions within the church and a scandal-plagued Vatican hierarchy.

Robin Wright

  The events of the Arab Spring were momentous and for many, exciting to watch as they unfolded in the Middle East. So what now?

That's the domain of acclaimed author and foreign correspondent Robin Wright. She's in town this week to discuss her book, Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Muslim World.

Contributed Photo

  Huge cargo ships stocked with items from overseas. Big business. Potential threats to the environment.  All are part of the mix as the JAXPORT board announces its desire to dredge the St. Johns River to 47 feet to accomodate what are known as Panamax-ready ships. These are the huge freighters that could be drawn to Jacksonville once the Panama Canal is widened in the next couple of years.

Associated Press

It's set to be something of a legislative showdown in Tallahassee after a key House panel differed with Florida Governor Rick Scott over the issue of Medicaid expansion.

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Rick Wilson/The Florida Times-Union file photo

 It's a big-picture look at the future transportation needs of the entire First Coast.

The Northeast Florida Regional Transportation Study Commission (RTSC), is working with the seven counties of the First Coast to develop a better transportation grid for the coming decades.

We spoke with Director Brad Thoburn and Commissioner Bob Rhodes about the organization's long-term goals.

They begin with securing funding from state lawmakers to develop a regional, multimodal transportation plan.

CEO of Shands
Shands Jacksonville

He's the new CEO of Shands Jacksonville, and Russ Armistead has a full plate- dealing with everything from turf battles over trauma care in Northeast Florida to a planned Medicaid expansion in the state that will greatly impact Shands, the "safety-net" hospital for the region.

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