Milwaukee Talks: WTMJ-4 anchor/reporter Melissa McCrady
OMC: You told me that prisoners send you letters, too.
MM: Yes. I used to joke that people said that being on TV makes you a local celebrity. My line was always, "No way, you're not a real celebrity until you get a prisoner letter."
OMC: And now?
MM: Now I'm a real celebrity. One morning, I checked my mailbox and I saw the letter from some correctional facility. I held it up and jokingly said, "I've really made it, you guys." The first response was from Vince Vitrano, who asked if I wanted to read it. We all gathered around as he read it. I saved it. I have a file labeled "viewers." I've saved the mean, rude letters saying my hair is awful, to prisoners, to nice letters.
OMC: Actually, I wanted to ask you that. As a woman journalist, are you subjected to feedback that your male colleagues probably don't get?
MM: Yes. I wouldn't say I get a lot, but a decent amount, more than what you'd think. It's surprising that someone would be that upset enough to call me and leave a long-winded message about my hair. The two biggest complaints that I get are my hair and my voice. You have to have thick skin working in this business. Everyone handles those voicemails different. I usually listen them, forward them to my friends for a good laugh, then leave it alone. I find humor in just about everything, so I usually laugh and move on.
OMC: Speaking of humor, what's the "quadbox," and why does it warrant a hash tag on Twitter?
MM: I did it to be funny. Now it's got a following. Our producer wanted to make some changes to "Live At Daybreak," and wanted to hit the news hard. We came out of a commercial with Vince and Kim in one box, something weather-related in another, myself, and video of another big story. "Time to sprint you into your Tuesday!" People asked all these questions on Twitter about it, so I created the hashtag, and it started gaining some attention. It's slightly embarrassing when people don't understand I'm just being silly.
OMC: Well, you are kind of a silly person, but you're working at a not very silly job. Is it hard to dial it down, or do you ever get a chance to let some of your personality shine through?
MM: I wouldn't say I'm a different person on TV, but you just see my serious side, because you have to. I think when I anchored the weekend morning show, anybody who watched that got to see more of my silly side. I've always been more of a hard news sort of reporter, and that's serious, so I have to be serious. I always joke that I have a split personality. It's starting to wear on me – covering bad stories never used to bother me, but within the last year, it's starting to get to me.
OMC: What do you attribute that to? Getting older?
MM: Getting older and relating to the people in my stories. I'm 31, and I've reached a different point in my life. Once I get out of work now, I don't want to do anything serious.
OMC: You're active in social media, and you talk to your competition and your viewers. That would've never happened 10 years ago. Do you like that aspect of Twitter and Facebook?
MM: I always try to put myself in someone else's shoes, no matter what the situation. I think to myself, when I was younger watching the news, when there's someone you enjoy or admire, you want to get to know who that person really is. What most people see of me is a serious person spinning out factual information. I do like that people get to see the real Melissa McCrady.
OMC: Are you recognized around Milwaukee?
MM: I would say so. Is it every day? No. But with Channel 4 being such a big and legendary station, every if people don't see my face, they seem to recognize my voice.
OMC: So what do you like to do in your vast amounts of free time?
MM: Sleep, number one. I enjoy golfing. I'm not a very good golfer. I enjoy going to the gym. This was the first summer I didn't work weekends, so it was nice to be able to go to Bradford Beach and hang out and stay out past 6 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday night.
OMC: Can you bounce back from your crazy hours?
MM: I can, but it's challenging. I can't stay out very late at all.
OMC: So when you do get out, what are some of your favorite places?
MM: I love Crazy Water and Charro. Plus, they're very good about gluten-free foods. I was just at Distil.
OMC: Do you live Downtown?
MM: No, I used to. I miss Downtown, but now I live in Wauwatosa. It's safer when I'm walking my dog at 2:30 a.m.
OMC: Can we expect you to stick around Milwaukee for a while?
MM: I want to. I came her almost six years ago on a three-year contract, and said, "I'm leaving in three years. I want to go home to Cleveland. I want to get my experience and move on."
Then, my three years came up once the recession hit, and I got an extension on my contract. I have another year and a half on my contract, but regardless of it, I now consider Milwaukee home. I got an offer in Cleveland and Columbus a year and a half ago, before I signed my contract, and the grass isn't always greener. You always think it's greener, you always think it'll be so nice going home, but I'm happy here. I don't plan on leaving anytime soon.
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It amuses me that someone so young and with such limited time in the profession is portrayed as an old hand and a veteran.
Three cheers for Melissa McCrady. Not only is she the consummate professional on air, she's smart, sweet, and just as pretty in person. ...and her little dog Kurt is Milwaukee's second handsomest canine (after me)
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