First Coast Connect

Weekdays 9:00 a.m.

Hosted by Melissa Ross, this one-hour call-in program features local newsmakers, civic and community leaders, arts, activities and more, along with spot news features and a weekly roundtable of local journalists.

Coming up on Friday's show:

  • Media Roundtable Week in Review
  • The PLAYERS Championship
  • National Birth Mothers Day
  • Travel Expert Judy Wells

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First Coast Connect is sponsored in part by Baptist Health and North Florida TPO.

Education coverage is sponsored in part by the Chartrand Foundation.

Legal and political coverage is sponsored in part by Farah & Farah Law Firm.

School Lunches

It’s a little-noticed move on Capitol Hill but one that could affect many thousands of kids and families in our area.

House lawmakers are quietly rolling back school lunch laws passed in 2010 which guarantee free lunches and after-school meals for children in high-poverty areas.

Rick Wilson

Donald Trump is closing in on the Republican nomination for president after winning Tuesday's Indiana primary.

Ted Cruz officially ended his campaign after the election, leaving just Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich still standing.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders won the state of Indiana. However, Hillary Clinton still has a commanding delegate lead in that contest.

Mr. Trump is emerging as the standard bearer of a Republican Party that has been traumatized and torn apart by his campaign.


Tourism in Jacksonville is a $2.2 billion industry that employs more than 22,000 people.

The past two years have been record-breaking for visits to the First Coast. Jacksonville is ranked as one of the top 50 convention destinations in the country.

Jacksonville officials are marking  National Travel and Tourism Week with a series of events highlighting tourism’s growing importance to the city's economy.

Visit Jacksonville CEO Paul Astleford joins us with a look at what's being to done to bring more visitors to the First Coast.

The Caregiver Coalition of North East Florida will be hosting its annual Caregiver Expo on May 7, at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.

Lee Woodruff, who spoke about her personal experiences as a caregiver on WJCT's First Coast Connect, will be the keynote speaker at the Caregiver Expo. 

Lee Woodruff

New York Times bestselling author and CBS This Morning contributor Lee Woodruff was thrust into the position of caregiver after her husband, Bob Woodruff, was injured by a roadside bomb while reporting from Iraq for ABC's World News Tonight.

Lee cared for Bob on his long road to recovery from a traumatic brain injury, experiencing the impact that taking care of a loved one can have on a family, marriage and her own health.

Media Roundtable Week in Review

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Sebastian Kitchen, Florida Times-Union reporter; Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor; and WJCT News analyst John Burr.

Topics include Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Councilman Garrett Dennis' meeting with United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro concerning the Eureka Garden housing complex, and more. 

Valerie Plame Wilson

Suicide Rates

A new report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the U.S. suicide rate is the highest it's been in 30 years, increasing 24 percent from 1999 to 2014.

Suicide is now one of the 10 leading causes of death, the CDC says.

Rates are up significantly among middle-aged Americans. There’s also a spike in suicide among women and girls.

Primary Results

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored huge victories Tuesday in five more states, bringing them closer to a monumental duel for the White House later this year.

Trump had a clean sweep of races in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Clinton delivered big wins in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut.

Bernie Sanders picked up his sole victory of the night in Rhode Island.

Pennsylvania Primary

Five states will cast votes Tuesday in what’s known as the “Amtrak primary.”

Voters go to the polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.

The contests are expected to help the two 2016 presidential front-runners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, rack up even wider leads in their parties’ crucial delegates counts. The Pennsylvania primary in particular is being closely watched.

Todd Zwillich, Washington correspondent for the public radio program The Takeaway, is a Pennsylvania native.

We speak with Zwillich about Tuesday's primaries and what the outcome will likely mean for the 2016 race.

Curry live in studio

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has called it the city’s top priority, and he’s pushing hard for voters to say yes to a referendum this summer, asking Duval County residents to approve a 1/2-cent sales tax to pay down the city’s enormous pension debt.

Media Roundtable Week in Review

We discuss the week's top news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Larry Hannan of the Florida Times-Union; A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics; Claire Goforth, editor at Folio Weekly; and our own WJCT analyst John Burr.

Topics include a Confederate flag getting shot down in Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry cracking down on one notoriously lavish local pension and the embattled North Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown running for re-election.


Harriet Tubman

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced this week that abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the face on the $20 bill.

We examine race issues surrounding this change with community activist Chevara Orrin.

Sandra Lee

Food Network star Sandra Lee is in Jacksonville this week to make her debut as BBVA Compass' newest brand ambassador to bolster the bank's Bright Futures initiative and broaden the bank's outreach to businesses.

Fair Housing

April marks Fair Housing Month.

It’s a time to commemorate the 1968 passage of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing. Citizens cannot be discriminated against based on gender, race, color, national origin, religion, disability or family status. Local ordinances may offer additional protection.

The 2016 Florida Fair Housing Summit takes place next week in Orlando.

Child Abuse Prevention

April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

In Duval County, there were 2,471 reports of child abuse last year. That includes reports of neglect, physical and sexual abuse combined.

Out of the 735 children who were removed and sent to Foster Care in that same time period, 307 were removed due to neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

Energy Inequality

An estimated 16 million Americans pay more than 10 percent of their total income on utility bills, more than four times higher than the average consumer.

A new report from the energy equity nonprofit Groundswell finds Jacksonville is the U.S. city struggling the most when it comes to the issue of energy inequality.

According to their research, nearly 15 percent of Jacksonville households living below the poverty line pay more than $200 per month for electricity.