It’s been a while but some Connecticut viewers may remember Melissa Francis, a WFSB weekend morning anchor and general assignment report in the late 1990s. You might also remember her from her childhood acting days. Francis appeared as Cassandra Cooper Ingalls in “Little House on The Prairie,” and in episodes of “ALF,” “Mork and Mindy,” and “St. Elsewhere.”
These days however, the mother of two has a different kind of tv persona. She just launched her own FOX Business show called “MONEY with Melissa Francis,” where she breaks down the day’s top stories and how they impact the American taxpayer.
Francis also has another project on the drawing board. She has written a book scheduled for a fall release and it includes her stint in Connecticut. Rumored to be the inspiration behind the “30 Rock” journalist, Avery Jessup, Francis recalled her quality Connecticut time and explained her career these days as she Spilled the Beans With Java.
Q: I know it’s brand new but what prompted your new show and what is the focus?
A: Just been on a couple of weeks since it began but it is all very exciting. It is all about your money, the issues of your pockets, the economy, small businesses and how what happens in Washington D.C. affects it all. The show has attitude and a point of view with lots of guests from politicians to economists. The idea is to show that what is happening to the economy interconnects with your life from student loans and household budgets to taxes on your businesses and investment choices. We look at how Washington is mismanaging and managing things , we have a point of view and debate both sides.
Q: I know you are a Harvard grad with an economics background. But is it still a man’s world when it comes to reporting on money matter and the economy?
A: Not at all. I don’t think so at all. Maria Bartiromo was my idol. She made brains glamorous and brought women to the forefront of financial journalism.
Q: Hartford was one of the markets where you cut your teeth. Memories?
A: Fond ones. Dana Neves was one of my best friends and was in my wedding. And we were roommates. There was a cub reporter at the time I was there, Dennis House, right after the mullet. Denise D’Ascenzo , she has not changed a bit. I had the pleasure of working with them all. And then there was a new guy when I was there. Someone told me he would be doing weekend weather and that he was really, really funny. It was Scot Haney. We were immediately friends. We had a blast.
Q: You were an actor first. Why the switch to journalism?
A: I enjoyed acting but when it came time to go to college, I went far away so I couldn’t keep on foot in acting. My first tv job was in New Hampshire and the news director there was all excited because of my acting background. He thought it would translate well on television. It didn’t. I was like a deer in headlights because in acting, someone is giving you the words to say and you rehearse a million times. In tv you are flying by the seat of your pants and it’s unscripted. But what I love about my own show is that it is my own voice.
Q: You will be 40 soon. Is that good or bad in your business?
A: At my broadcast level, age and beauty aren’t so important. There are seasoned women who may also be gorgeous but we have a longer life in the business. I have to be able to handle a debate with politicians about money. You can’t just be pretty. Although I am acutely aware that down the line the life span on television will end. I mean television will always be a visual medium so let’s not kid ourselves.
Q: I understand you have written a book. Tell me about it?
A: I have and it comes out in the fall. The title is “Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter” and it is juicy and I dish on everyone. Hartford plays a big role. Dana is in the book.
Q: Any professional words of hope or encouragement as people struggle with this economy?
A: I would say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, things will get better, and we have resolve and fortitude to forge ahead. I think the recession may us realize what is important in our own lives and I forcing us all to get smart with money and how we are spending it. This is not the time to hide you money in your mattress but to get more engaged and face reality. We are smarter about planning for our future, about investing, and what our government is doing when it comes to spending. And that’s a blessing even though it is an exhausting time for every family no matter what the income.
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