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Storied career in TV news


“I’m from a long line of storytellers,” says Doug McKelway ’78, a Washington correspondent for Fox News. “It’s in my blood.” Grandfather Benjamin McKel- way worked his way up from copy boy at the Washington Evening Star to become executive editor and served as president of the Associated Press. Uncle St. Clair McKelway was managing editor of the New Yorker magazine during its Algon- quin Round Table heyday. And McKel- way’s brother Bill is a celebrated reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. At first, McKelway resisted his appar- ent destiny in favor of a music career. All through his Skidmore days, he was the shy kid who furiously practiced the banjo in empty stairwells and then dazzled Saratoga audiences on the weekends, playing with local bluegrass legend Frank Wakefield. At graduation, McKelway was struck by President Joseph Palamoun-


for Westinghouse television. He learned to shoot, edit, and interview, eventually cobbling together a broadcasting resume. When he was picked up by a Charlotte, N.C., Westinghouse station, he had to face his fear of public speaking. “I made all my mistakes there,” he says.


From Charlotte, he


“MISTAKES ARE MAGNIFIED AT THIS LEVEL,


SO THE ONUS IS ON ME TO GET IT RIGHT.”


went to a small newsroom back in D.C., where he would conduct interviews of senators and congressmen and drive the videotape to the airport for distribution to affiliate stations across the country. He spent five years at KCTV in Kansas City, where he cut his teeth as an anchorman. In Jacksonville, Fla., he anchored at WJKS and back in Washington at ABC affiliate WJLA and at the powerhouse NBC-owned WRC-TV. Joe Palamountain’s prediction was ringing true.


port program edited by Brit Hume for years. Now McKelway recalled his first day as a cub reporter 30 years ago, when Hume marched into a congressional press office and rattled off details about that day’s legislation to the other veterans as he began pounding away on his typewriter. Mc- Kelway was transfixed


and hoped someday to work with the likes of Hume. Today, as Washington correspondent


for Special Report, McKelway has realized the dream. “I’m reporting on the major stories,” he says, “and able to do longer- form pieces, up to two minutes and thir- ty seconds. That’s virtually unheard-of on other networks.” But with that expo- sure comes more pressure. “Mistakes are magnified at this level, so the onus is on me to get it right.” He also reflects that in a nonstop media world, there are many more deadlines to meet: “I’m doing news packages, Web stories, radio pieces, print stories, and Internet-exclu- sive pieces.” Musing about how technol- ogy has transformed the news landscape over a career that has spanned analog and digital media, he says, “Now there’s much more information available in- stantly, and politicos and spokespeople are far savvier, so it’s important to have a discerning nose for BS!” He credits Skid- more for helping him develop his critical- thinking skills.


DOUG MCKELWAY ’78 ON THE AIR


tain’s proclamation that grads would hold an average of six different jobs in their lifetimes. “No way,” thought McKel- way. “It’s the life of a musician for me!” He headed straight to Burlington, Vt., and joined a bluegrass band. After a year of making $50 a week, though, he changed his plans. He scoured Washington, D.C., news bureaus for entry-level work and found a gofer job


By 2010, McKelway was tiring of the formulaic local news coverage of crimes and car crashes, and yearning for a bigger stage. After a public disagreement with WJLA management, he was released from his contract, freeing him to find that stage.


He felt a personal and political affilia- tion with the Fox network’s approach to news, and he had admired its Special Re-


McKelway is part of a Washington powerhouse media couple: His wife, Susan Ferrechio, is congressional corre- spondent for the Washington Examiner and often pops up on political talk shows. With musical-savant son Alexan- der and their new dog, they live inside the Beltway.


McKelway says he still admires great


storytellers, and his deepest pleasure in reporting is weaving the nuanced strands of an issue, an event, or a life into a com- pelling and memorable story. —Jon Wurt- mann ’78


WINTER 2012 SCOPE 33


COURTESY OF FOX NEWS


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