Local anchor plans her post-career life
One of the most recognizable faces in Fort Wayne media is hoping her retirement in December will make her a little less recognizable. Melissa Long, a fixture on local television news for three decades and the wife of Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, is putting away the makeup brushes and the teleprompters to focus on volunteering and other endeavors. Find out what it’s like being a politician’s wife and whether people judge her grocery cart as we play 20 Questions with Melissa Long.
1. How did you meet David?
I was 15, and my older brother came home from Wabash College with his roommate from California. David was 18, and he had hair parted in the middle and down to here and a moustache. I was instantly smitten. He was like, oh yeah, here’s the kid sister. Several years later, when my brother got married, he came back for the wedding, and we sort of got together then.
2. How did you start playing the banjo?
My dad found it in an old apartment he managed, and he brought it home to me when I was 12. I already played the ukelele. I’m a strummer. I strum and do minor picking.
3. What are your favorite memories of growing up in Fort Wayne?
I probably have the same ones as a lot of people do. I love Christmastime in Fort Wayne, very magical, magical. I loved ice skating at Swinney Park, and I loved going to the zoo and just running around from dawn to dusk.
4. What do you plan to do in retirement?
My standard answer is sit on my ass. But I don’t think I should say that! [Laughs.] I want to just relax, and I want to be a non-public person. It’s been a long time, 31 years. Not that I’m going to hibernate, but … I’m anxious to be able to be spontaneous with my schedule. It’s really not the job I’m growing weary of; it’s the inflexibility of the schedule.
5. How do you keep your journalistic objectivity being married to a politician?
It’s easier than you might think. He’s a big boy, and he can take care of himself. It was so interesting this past session, but I try very hard to put myself on both sides and make sure we’re telling both sides. I feel protective of the viewers.
6. Who are your journalistic heroes?
Locally it would be Dick Florea and Victor Locke, two guys who just did the nuts and bolts work. I just learned so much from working with them. They were not about being on the air, they were about doing the work, digging around, making phone calls, looking in the paper. Dick said, “read the divorces and the bankruptcies every day. And the obituaries.”
7. What is your favorite part about doing the news?
Being in the newsroom before the newscast because we have such a fun group of people.
8. What won’t you miss?
I will not miss hair and makeup. I will not miss getting home at midnight.
9. What was your most embarrassing moment on air?
When I actually said “I’m Keith Edwards.” At the very last minute they switched who was reading the lead, I looked up and I was prepared to read. I read the first line and it said, “Good evening, I’m Keith Edwards,” and he said “No, you’re not!” And you’ve got to keep going. I said it like it was true! There have been many embarrassing moments!
10. Which is harder: anchoring the news or raising boys?
Oh, raising boys! Are you kidding me? Or should I say, raising my boys!
11. How has TV news changed?
The whole computer thing. I mean, we had typewriters and carbon copy paper, and we had slides in a drawer for graphics. Computers and social media have just changed it completely. There’s so much emphasis on digital. Computers have changed how we put the news together; social media has changed how we deliver it.
12. Is that for the better or worse?
That’s a hard question. I would say mostly for the better. It speeds up what we can do. It improves our storytelling. Also for the worse in that there’s no, on social media, there’s no fact-checking. There’s a lot of “news” put out that there’s no fact-checking or context.
13. What’s the hardest aspect of being a politician’s wife?
I think it is for this particular politician, it’s lonely at the top. He’s a leader in the Senate, and oftentimes he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about stuff and so I’m the sounding board. And that’s OK, and some of these problems are big issues, and we don’t always agree on them. Plus he’s gone a lot and has been since (he was elected). There’s a lot of being alone. So I have a dog.
14. What’s the best aspect of being a politician’s wife?
It keeps you curious about the world and about what’s going on around you. I like being aware. I wish we could say we have fabulous perks, but they’ve done away with all that.
15. Do people critique what’s in your grocery basket?
No, they ask me to reach things on the top shelf. I’m 5 foot 10 inches. And when I go to the store they don’t know who I am. My real face is my disguise!
16. What do you wish you’d known about Fort Wayne when you were a cub reporter?
How a lot of these agencies work together. Now I have such a better understanding of how a city runs and how even social agencies are so integral to the success of the city.
17. If you could interview any person, who would that be?
I would love to interview (Supreme Court Chief Justice) John Roberts.
18. Who has had the biggest impact on your life?
My mother, Mary Ann Hunter. We just celebrated her 85th birthday. She is the epitome of grace. She always nurtured me, encouraged me. She has lost two husbands to illness, and she did it with beautiful dignity and grace. I strive to be like her every day. David says she’s the reason he married me. He was hoping I’d turn out like her.
19. And have you?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m done turning out yet!
20. Who is the real Melissa Long?
I’m just kind of goofy. I am not a high glamour person. I am, I think, quite relaxed. I’m easygoing. I like to laugh, and I try not to take myself too seriously. When you’re a public person, you feel that you have to be nice to everybody. You want them to have a positive experience with you, so I’m a people pleaser and sometimes that’s bad. It’s a bad thing to feel like you can’t say no.
First appeared in the August 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.