Detroit Media Shakeup: WDIV's Bernie Smilovitz, Rod Meloni, Mara MacDonald To Take Buyouts

May 14, 2024, 8:35 PM by  Allan Lengel

Bernie Smilovitz, Mara MacDonald, Rod Meloni

Detroit's WDIV is about to lose some high-profile talent.

Veteran sportscaster  Bernie Smilovitz and reporters Rod Meloni and Mara MacDonald plan to take voluntary buyouts, according to a person familiar with the situation. Some others at the station have reportedly turned down buyout offers.  

Smilovitz and MacDonald did not returns phone calls for comment Tuesday. Meloni declined to comment.

WDIV General Manager Bob Ellis issued a statement on Wednesday:

In March, WDIV launched a Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program. This optional program provides a thoughtful pathway for our long-serving colleagues nearing retirement. As you no doubt understand, we do not comment on station personnel matters or any of our employee’s individual and private personal decisions. In the weeks ahead we will celebrate with our viewers those who determine this is the right opportunity for them.

Smilovitz, who grew up in D.C., is the king of shtick. He was inducted in 2004 into the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. After graduating the University of Michigan, he got his first job at WTOP Radio in D.C. and later moved to Channel 5 in D.C.

In 1986, he moved to Detroit to work for WDIV where he won local Emmys and created his trademark segments, “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “Bernie’s Bloopers.” Last year, his wife of 38 years, Dr. Donna Rockwell, passed.  

In a column for WDIV, he wrote of his wife:

If you sign up for life, you also sign up for death. We are all crushed and heartbroken that she is gone. 66 years old, beautiful and beyond intelligent with a heart of gold and compassion for all she came into contact with.

The truth is I wrestled mightily with returning to work. After all, Local 4 is also my family. But I went by the standard established by Donna. We live by the code...W.W.D.D. What would Donna do? She understood just how fragile life is, and she knew you had to live every day like it was your last. And that gaping hole in my heart would heal, slowly, but it would.

MacDonald graduated from Miami University with an undergrad degree in diplomacy and foreign affairs in 1991. In 2000, she worked for Fox 6 in Milwaukee before coming to WDIV in 2004.

Meloni earned an undergrad degree in communication from the Emerson College in Boston in 1981. He first worked as the overnight editor for WEAN-AM in Rhode Island. in 1981, he was anchor/reporter/producer for WABI-TV in Maine. After a number of stops, he joined WDIV in 1995 where he eventually became the business editor and reporter.

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