Melrose has covered Bay Area news for KCBS radio for 36 years. “A veteran reporter lending pride to the profession of journalism,” Congresswoman Jackie Speier says.
By Gideon Rubin
It was during the early years of veteran newsman Bob Melrose’s legendary broadcasting career that he reported on the Jonestown massacre in Guyana that left more than 900 dead and many others wounded, including Jackie Speier, then a congressional aide, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Melrose, who announced his retirement earlier this month after 36 years behind the microphone at KCBS, spent six hours manning the phone line with Guyana after news broke that Congressman Leo Ryan and Speier were among those shot at a nearby airstrip, the San Jose Mercury reports.
Speier, now a Congresswoman representing San Mateo, told Patch in an email that Melrose’s legendary reporting will be missed as much as his old-fashioned quirkiness.
“Bob Melrose was a veteran reporter lending pride to the profession of journalism. I will miss his excellent reports and of course the squeak – squeak of his sneakers when he was approaching me with his old fashioned tape recorder to ask me to comment on the latest breaking news,” Speier said.
Melrose was determined to make his mark as a journalist after listening the Watergate hearings in the early 1970s, but there was nothing easy about his career path, according to the Mercury report, which describes countless rejections before he finally got his break at KCBS in 1975.
Melrose was living on unemployment and food stamps at the time.
The Mercury report describes an inside-the-newsroom scene that foreshadowed one of the most dramatic events in modern Bay Area history:
Melrose was still a freshman in the KCBS newsroom when former San Francisco City Hall reporter Jim Hamblin told him that if he were ever out of breath on the phone, it was because he had either just scored with a beautiful local newscaster, or the mayor had been shot.
A breathless Hamblin had not yet squeaked out the words on the phone Nov. 27, 1978, before Melrose turned to his colleagues and gave them the first warning that Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were killed in City Hall.
"I knew right then, and said, 'I think the mayor's been shot,' " Melrose said. "Everyone was shocked and they said, 'How do you know?' I told them I didn't want to say. It was a joke between guys talking about events we never thought would happen."
The Mercury report describes Melrose, who is 61, as bulldog reporter who had to be ordered home from the newsroom after he spent 36 consecutive hours covering the grisly discovery of Polly Klaas’ mutilated body in 1993.
“I wish him well in his retirement, though I can’t imagine what this news junkie will do with all his spare time,” Speier said.
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