Graciously, and surprisingly, Murray Feldman greets a guest to his cluttered Fox 2 office cubicle with a warm handshake and an unexpected invitation: “Let me give you a tour of the station.”
Feldman escorts his visitor around the newsroom, introduces him to the assistant news director, and strides to the backdrop where the reporters stand when they report breaking news. Then, as if uncovering a secret passageway only he knows, Feldman leads his invitee up a back stairwell to a huge, opulent boardroom that’s evocative of a glorious local-television era gone by.
Suddenly, the thought clicks. Why wouldn’t Murray Feldman want to proudly escort a guest around the Channel 2 facilities? It’s been his second home for practically his entire adult life. WJBK may not be the House That Murray Built, but he’s held a lease on the property longer than any current occupant.
In December, Feldman marked his 33rd consecutive year at WJBK, and in this modern-media age, that’s a record for on-air permanence that might never be equaled. “And I’m not even that old,” Feldman, 56, says with a smile, “so I can’t believe it.” Far from coasting toward retirement, Channel 2’s veteran business and financial correspondent may be the hardest-working man in Detroit media.
He delivers regular “Money Minute” reports every weekday morning, “Murray’s Money Savers” segments each afternoon, and “The Fox 2 Job Shop” employment update runs during the day. His past nightly news spot, “The Feldman Report” is now featured on WWJ Newsradio 950, where he serves as the station’s business reporter. He also hosts Webcasts on myfoxdetroit.com. And, in his spare time, he co-anchors WJBK’s 5:30 p.m. newscast Monday through Friday. In these troubled times of auto industry freefall, life-shattering layoffs, and foreclosure hell, Feldman’s warm voice of confidence and reassurance has become one of Detroit’s most valuable resources.
“Do you realize how many jobs he has?” marvels Huel Perkins, Fox 2’s lead anchor. “But he is indispensable. He’s the consummate professional. He knows the auto industry, he knows Detroit, the region, the state better than anybody in the market. I have said to him several times, ‘You know, you should be the lead anchor sometimes.’ But he has never wanted that role, and I think it’s because he loves what he does so much.
“Murray Feldman is the heart and soul and brains of Fox 2. He makes us all better. And I could not imagine coming to work without him by my side.”
If not for the vagaries of fate, Perkins might not have had that privilege. As Feldman says, “I’ve been really fortunate that timing worked out for me, because there were a couple of occasions when I was on the chopping block, but it just wasn’t time. Once I wasn’t at the end of a contract, but my boss was, and he got the ax.”
Through Channel 2’s tumultuous history, he has survived five ownership changes, a dozen management teams, and countless news directors, station managers, and program consultants. His secret? “When new people come in, you go to them and say, ‘Hey, I look forward to learning from you,’ ” Feldman says. “I’ve learned from every single person I’ve worked for. From many of them I learned what I never want to do, but I learned.”
Surely he has taken a lesson or two from Sherry Margolis, his on-air partner at 5:30 for so long that she can’t remember when they began. “I’m thinking of all the people I know who are on the air, and I don’t know anyone who has a greater passion for what they do or is constantly trying to be as creative as he can be,” she says. “I mean, he does business stories. They could be dry, they could be complicated, and he has such a knack for putting them into words everyone can understand.
“He was my first friend at the station. Our families socialize together. His life is here, and that’s very important to him. He’s got his priorities straight.”
Feldman’s devotion to economic news borders on the obsessive. He admits to keeping a Walkman under his bed so he can listen to headlines at 3 a.m., in case there’s breaking news on world markets. “The headset used to stay on all night,” says Marla Feldman, his forbearing wife of 28 years and a grade-school principal in Livonia. “I’ve gotten him to the point where he will take them off and sleep for a few hours.
“I knew going in that this was a workaholic for all the good reasons. He lives and breathes news,” she says. “He reads everything he can put his hands on. There truthfully isn’t a moment he’s not thinking about how he should handle a certain story.”
Feldman maintains a large bag bulging with news clippings and story ideas, and it’s not uncommon for him to dash to Channel 2 or WWJ at 5 a.m. to update a segment if developments change overnight. Yet we almost didn’t get him. The Philadelphia native turned down Channel 2 three times while waiting for a promised anchor job to open up in Boston. Polished and telegenic enough for network duty, Feldman has fielded offers from New York and other larger markets, but “we wanted to be here,” he says. “There have been opportunities that would have been great jobs, and we looked at them, but we said, ‘Why give up what we have here? We love our neighborhood, we’re in the same house we bought when we got married, the kids [Katie, 26, a schoolteacher in Connecticut, and Rob, 24, the nighttime air personality at Q104 in Cleveland] had great friends and great schools.”
Marla senses that, because Murray knows so many Michigan business leaders personally, he is taking the current economic woes to heart. “He hurts when they hurt,” she says.
Feldman admits he frequently feels like the harbinger of doom, but says, “I always try to put some kind of ‘works for you’ into it, even on the radio.
“Those people out there, I think about them individually every time I’m on the air, how they’re going to be impacted by my words. It helps you to dig deeper in researching that story, to try to put something out there that’s either going to give them some hope or some information they can use.” He pauses, almost sheepishly and adds, “I hate to say this, but I really have everything I could possibly want.
“I’ve interviewed presidents at the White House and I’ve been in barricaded-gunman situations where we’ve hidden in bushes and under cars. I have had great opportunities that other people wouldn’t have had, and you’ve got to be thankful for all of it.”
McFarlin is a Ferndale freelancer. Editorial@hourdetroit.com.