A Warm Welcome to Lee Melsek, Our Newest Member

Lee Melsek

Please join us in warmly welcoming Lee Melsek to the Press Club of Southwest Florida.

Lee’s stellar career in investigative reporting is an inspiration, and the club is grateful that Lee wants to help mentor our club’s young reporters, especially those in watchdog reporting roles.

Lee was the investigative reporter at the Fort Myers News-Press for 32 years, from 1972-2004.

During those years, he won many regional, statewide, and national journalism awards. These include:

    • National Headliner Award, 1975, first place mid-size papers nationally for series on Florida’s Vanishing Coastlines
    • Florida Press Club, 1982, first place, Investigative Reporting, Lee Melsek and Barbara Johnson, for exposing Lee County government corruption. Also Best of Gannett, Grand Prize
    • National Press Club award for exposing corrupt auto body shops rigging prices in Collier and Lee Counties, 1979
    • Robert F. Kennedy Excellence in Journalism Award, Grand Prize winner, 1990, News-Press, team member on year-long series “Far From the Dream: The Plight of Blacks in Southwest Florida”
    • Associated Press Award, 1991, for excellence in breaking news, reporting on the bombing of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration offices in Fort Myers by drug peddler/killer Jeffrey Matthews
    • National Headliner, 1998, runner-up Public Service Award, for exposing Florida Medical Board’s lenient treatment of criminal doctors found incompetent, raping women patients and peddling drugs for sex with women patients, one of whom still practices medicine in Southwest Florida
    • Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, 1999, first place Investigative Reporting and Gold Medal, Public Service, for exposing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cover-up of a drug sting that spun out of control and killed an innocent 21-year-old single mother near Fort Myers Beach

Lee notes that some of his other major investigations at the News-Press included:

    • Investigated and exposed a corrupt Lee County judge, resulting in his resignation from the bench, 1975
    • Investigated and exposed the railroading of a field worker’s conviction and life sentence for robbery, resulting in the state setting him free, 1975
    • Investigated and exposed the death of a 21-year-old Cape Coral housewife, finding how the police conclusion of accidental death was wrong and obtaining evidence her husband killed her. Resulted in Medical Examiner changing cause of death from accidental to homicide, 1979
    • Investigated and exposed dangers and deaths at Pierce Wood state mental hospital, 1994-95, resulting in Florida Legislature closing the hospital

Lee grew up on Fort Myers Beach and graduated in 1962 from Fort Myers High School. In 1972 he graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida.

A warm welcome to the press club, Lee, and a heartfelt thank you to member Susan Bennett for highly recommending that you join us.