For the inaugural "Five questions with..." I'd like to introduce a man who needs no introduction. He is in your living room nearly every night, and has yet to comment on your new rug, yet you always invite him back ... He is, the inimitable, the native son, the man... Craig Melvin.
1. People say you could be a national news anchor if you wanted. What's keeping you in South Carolina? Is it the barbecue?
People are kind to say that. However, I’m not sure if people are saying that or if it’s mainly my mother and girlfriend. I’d love to anchor and report the news in a major market one day, but for now South Carolina is home. I stay for two reasons. First of all, I’m contractually obligated =) Also, I love working in the city where I was born and grew up. When I graduated from Wofford a few years ago, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life. I came back to Columbia with my government degree in hand and started working at WIS as a photographer. Originally I planned to only do it long enough to decide how I wanted to spend my professional life. I didn’t know I’d fall in love with telling stories. I’ve stayed here because WIS took a chance on a young guy who didn’t have solid journalism credentials and because everyday I continue to learn a great deal from my colleagues. Hopefully, one day in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to take all I’ve learned and land an anchoring job in a major city. Until then, I’ll continue to love working in South Carolina at WIS.
2. What is your favorite barbecue restaurant and why?
There is another thing that keeps me here---the barbecue. It’s the best in the world! I live downtown, so I get over to Palmetto Pig about once every six weeks. If I went more, I’d be as big as a house. Its fried chicken is the best in Columbia, but I think the main reason I go to the pig is because of its close proximity to where I live, work, and play. However, my personal favorite is Myers B-B-Q in Blythewood. Often times, mustard-based barbecue is too much mustard and not enough barbecue, so I’m partial to the vinegar based barbecue. (I apologize to fans of the ketchup based. I don’t even consider that legitimate barbecue) At Myers, it’s perfectly succulent and tender every time. There’s also a personal connection. I went to kindergarten with the son of the owner. It’s great barbecue from great people. If you haven’t tried it, you’re letting the best in life pass you by.
3. Is there any chance we'll one day see the name Craig Melvin on a ballot, besides Best of Coumbia?
I think good politicians and good broadcast journalists have something in common. They’re both true public servants. Good politicians make laws and use their public platform to address and advance issues for the common good. Good broadcast journalists use their platform and ink to illuminate issues for the common good. There’s something else good politicians and good broadcast journalists have in common---they’re truth tellers. Unfortunately, they have something else in common. There are not enough good ones in either group. There are far too many TV news reporters and anchors who love the idea of being on TV more than the idea of reporting the news and telling compelling stories that bring important issues to light. We’re supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted, but too many of us like the lights, make-up, and cameras more than the truth-seeking and story telling. There are far too many politicians who regularly trade truth-telling for rhetoric, too many who like the idea of being elected and using their office to advance a commercial enterprise, and not enough who genuinely care about their constituents and the public good. However, we’re to blame for the collective lot of public servants we have. We’ve created a political system where the cost to enter is staggering---both financially and personally. I’m a broadcast journalist. I wonder if I’ll ever able to pay the price to enter. Not to mention, I enjoy watching and reporting from the sidelines. That being said---who knows? Stranger things have happened.
4. You've done a lot of reporting about our public schools of late. Where do you think we should focus, as a state, to make ours a first-rate education system?
The best part of being an anchor is the opportunity you’re given to tell the stories you’re most passionate about. There’s no issue I’m more passionate about than public education. Perhaps it’s because my mother has been a public school teacher or administrator for nearly 20 years or perhaps because I’ve been inside so many of our schools and seen the promise and the problems firsthand. 36 school districts are suing South Carolina claiming the state doesn’t provide a minimally-adequate education as required by the state constitution. These are rural, largely black, school districts who say, among other things, they can’t generate enough property tax money to create good schools. A lawyer for the state told me in an interview once that if money bought student achievement, every school district in every state would be spending the same amount. There may be a funding problem in South Carolina, but there’s a bigger problem-parenting. The correlation between student achievement and parental involvement is undeniable. Parents who are actively involved in their child’s student life are more likely to have children who achieve. There are countless education experts and studies who concur, but more importantly, if you ask any teacher or principal in any public school in this state, the overwhelming majority will tell you that parents make the difference. You need the technology in the classrooms. You need the teachers with the advanced degrees. You need children to show up on the first day of school reading on grade level, but most of all, you need involved parents. As a state, we’ve got to figure out a way to break the cycle of mediocre parenting. If we can create an entire generation of engaged parents, SAT scores will go up, drop out rates will go down, and we’ll have a public education system that we can be proud of.
5. If Ben Tanner was stuck in Punxsutawnie, forced to re-live the same day over and over until he got it right, what song would play on his alarm clock-radio each morning?
Tanner wouldn’t use an alarm clock to awaken. He’s got two young children.
Craig Melvin, you had me at "Palmetto Pig." Gervais says, I'd cast a vote for this gentleman no matter what political party he represented, and I'd watch him no matter what network he's on. Thanks, Craig!