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Channel Seven's Mel Doyle, our Ruby of the Month

01 August 2014

Melissa Doyle

Melissa Doyle (pictured above at the recent Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence launch) is an Australian broadcast journalist whose career with the Seven Network, especially her 14-year co-hosting spot with David Koch on the morning program, Sunrise, has brought her national recognition.

Nominated four times for the Silver Logie for most popular presenter, Mel, as she prefers to be known, was the only woman nominee in the category for three of those years: 2006, 2007, 2008.

A self-confessed ‘potterer’, who admits to loving nothing better than “doing the garden, rearranging the furniture in the lounge room, putting on music and indulging in a bit of cleaning”, Mel likes to be busy.

The presenter of Seven Afternoon news, she also hosts smoothfm’s weekend breakfast show from 6am to 10am, which is her first significant departure from the world of TV.  Mel is also the national face of the Seven Network, covering and presenting major breaking news stories here and around the world - events such as the appointment of the Pope, and Schapelle Corby’s release from Kerobokan Prison in Bali.

She has written two books, although she doesn’t see herself as a writer. (It’s one of the reasons, Mel says, she chose broadcast journalism, and specifically television, as her career path.)

Alphabet Soup, her second book, was published in April and was a best seller.

Woman with influence

Off screen, Mel is the National Patron for Make a Wish and an ambassador for The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, Westmead Children's Hospital, World Vision, Children's Cancer Institute, George Gregan Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

She is also an ambassador for the Federal Government’s National Road Safety Council and is the Number One Ticket Holder for the Whittlesea Eagles (Vic AFL) and GWS Giants (AFL), as well as being the Chairperson for the GIANTS Foundation Charity, established in 2013.

When you look at that personal work load, how she finds the time to snip the heads off any roses at all is a miracle.

“My best influences have come from the people I meet. It’s my role as a journalist to put the talent front and centre and allow them to shine, or whatever,” says Mel.

It’s a role that has allowed her to see and meet a lot of leaders in their fields and if she has developed a pet hate, it’s people who behave as if they are superior in some way.

“People and leaders need to be inclusive and recognise the value of what every team member can bring to the table,” she says, going on to acknowledge “charisma with humility” as another important tool of influence.

“I think a lot about responsibilities: I have a responsibility to our viewers to bring them the story accurately and without bias and in a way that is representative of what is happening.

“I have a responsibility to other women out there to say, ‘I’m a working mum and it’s hard. I have good and bad days just like anyone else and we get through’.”

And then there is her growing sense of responsibility around her role and profile: “I’m 44 and been doing this work for 24 years. TV’s the only job I’ve ever done, and all I ever wanted to do. But the idea that I would have a profile and that it would be an entity in itself, something that would come with its own responsibilities and life - that was unexpected.

“If you’re rich enough you might want to build a wing on a hospital. If you’re smart enough you could go into a lab and find a cure for cancer. I can’t do those things but I can tell a story put on a ‘pretty frock’ and help raise awareness and funds. Tapping into that entity has been one of the most satisfying aspects of my career and one I never imagined when I began.”

Seated at a local café across coffee an hour or two before Mel is to start her work day, the former breakfast show’s face is well recognised. The café’s proprietor acknowledges her with a kiss, patrons’ faces register recognition and Mel greets people by name.

Just the other day, she says, she was flagging down a cab on George Street in Sydney’s CBD when a woman came up to her to say ‘Thank you’.

She told Mel she was from France originally and when she moved to Australia she knew no one. Watching Sunrise each morning, she came to feel a bond and friendship with Mel that kept her sane.

The program’s former co-host says, “what a compliment… if through the Telly I came across that way, what a privilege.”

A glass half-full girl, Mel is keenly aware that to be in people’s homes and accepted it has to be an authentic experience.

“Three hours of live TV every morning - you can’t fake it. You can’t be anything other than yourself. They saw me pregnant. They’ve seen me cry – the Beaconsfield mine collapse and the bushfires in Victoria. I was mortified as a journalist at my reaction but all that outpouring of grief around me, it was impossible for me to stay detached and immune.”

For the audience to stay with that authenticity - and for as long as it did - is testament to Mel’s ability to relate with a warmth and generosity of spirit that surpasses the obvious boundaries of the medium in which she works.

The mother of two is also determined not to be hard on herself and to go with the flow: “You can have it all but not all at once. You have to have what I call work life priorities and they change. Before we had children my husband and I were married for nearly five years and we worked hard to get the mortgage down as much as we could and save travel for later.

“I’ll be honest I think my 30s were hard. I had two little children, a fulltime job as did my husband, but we made a choice and if that meant making sacrifices for it to work, then we did. Now I am entering the next phase. The kids are more independent. I couldn’t do it without my girlfriends. They’re likeminded that helps as well.”

Having faith in your abilities, because “what you’ve clocked up will be there when you go back,” is advice she took on board and gives to others.

“You’re also the most productive people in the workforce. Women with children get so much more done at once,” she finishes.

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