Dario Melendez ’08 credits his education at Sacred Heart University, and more specifically the professors, with his successes in his young sports journalism career.
Melendez, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Media Studies, recently landed a plum job as the weekend sports anchor and reporter for WISN-TV, a top 40 station in Milwaukee, WI.
In November, he left the warmth of Fort Myers, Fla., where he was weekend sports anchor and reporter for WINK TV, for the harsh winter of the Midwest. “I’m freezing my butt off,” he said, but it is well worth it.
For WISN, owned by the Hearst Corporation, which also has a 20 percent interest in the sports network giant ESPN, Melendez covers, writes, anchors, produces and reports on professional, collegiate and high school athletics in and around Milwaukee. Among those professional teams he covers are the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Bucks. “I go wherever the Packers go,” he said.
The most recent Super Bowl was the third he has covered.”My last station was in Fort Myers, which is two hours away from both Tampa and Miami, so I was lucky enough to attend both. But what made this different and exciting was that I covering, not just the Super Bowl as an event, but one of the teams in the big game, the Green Bay Packers, and their historic run to becoming World Champs! It was a lot of work though. People don’t realize how much time you actually put into the job. I literally worked 120 hours during Super Bowl week, and I had three days off in a month and a half because of the Wisconsin Badgers making it to the Rose Bowl. Then I was flying to Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago for the Packer play-off games. But I wouldn't have it any other way.”
An added benefit: “The Super Bowl was such a fun experience, and I ran into one of my old professors who freelances with the NFL, Brian Thorne, and spoke to some SHU students who did a week’s internship at the game. My experience has been amazing. Getting to see all the big name players and movie stars, taking in the night life and then the game itself. Just a dream come true, and I owe it to Sacred Heart.”
He came to Sacred Heart on a football scholarship, playing the positions of quarterback and wide receiver, and wanted to get into sports journalism. During his four years, the Pioneers had a 20-20 record.
He took advantage of everything offered him by the Department of Communications and Media Studies. Being a small, independent school, he said, the department succeeds because of the faculty: “The professors know what they are doing. They actually care.”
James Castonguay, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies and the director of CMS graduate programs, said the department’s curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts and Catholic intellectual traditions, “which gives students the intellectual and ethical foundation necessary to be critical thinkers and problem solvers regardless of the profession or path they decide to pursue after college.”
More specifically, he said, the department “emphasizes what we call ‘applied learning,’ in which students take the historical knowledge and ethical concepts they learn in their theory classes and apply them to their own hands-on media productions. This comes into focus senior year, during which students take a capstone reading seminar and intensive analytical writing course, while also completing a senior production project.
“Along the way, students are routinely producing their own media projects and distributing them through our campus media outlets, while also completing internships at the major media outlets and communications companies in New York and Fairfield County.”
After graduation, Melendez tried hard to find a job. He said he must have sent out 300 tapes and received 296 rejections; the others just did not pan out. So he went home to Boca Raton, Fla., searched some more and found a part-time job in a smaller market in Southwest Florida at WINK-TV as a sports producer. “I was a one-man band for a year,” he said. He then became “official TV talent,” covering, writing, anchoring, producing and reporting on all levels of sports in the Fort Myers/Naples area.
When WISN offered him the job, there was no way he was going to turn it down. Since he started his new job on Nov. 8, the experience has been “really good,” and he is getting the opportunity to cover some national stories, like the recent trade of former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals. The reception from viewers has been great so far and he is getting good feedback from them, although he knows that criticism is just part of the game. “I’ve received lots of nice e-mails from viewers, who will tell you what they like and don’t like.”
He feels very fortunate for what he has achieved so far and is quick to point out that “it all goes back to Sacred Heart.”
A long-suffering but true south Florida sports fan, following the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Marlins and the Miami Heat, Melendez’s ultimate goal is to work for ESPN, which is based in Bristol, Connecticut. Being a sports anchor for ESPN, he said, would be a “dream come true.”
Castonguay believes that Melendez will go far in his career. “Dario was a pleasure to have in our department. He was a smart and motivated learner who excelled both in the classroom and on the football field. Above all else, Dario is a kind and generous person who was always willing to help his classmates with their own production projects when they needed crew members or on-camera talent.
“I was confident that he would be successful in the journalism and broadcasting field, and am thrilled to see that he is already employed in a major media market. At this rate, we’ll be watching him back here on a New York station or national network in no time.”