Melton commissioned many crime stories while EiC of Los Angeles, including the first indepth piece about a mass murderer who had evaded justice for decades. She asked the writer, Michele McNamara, to propose a moniker to use for him in the story. Melton chose “Golden State Killer” from the list. The story helped draw attention to an investigation that led to a headline-making capture.
Mary Melton is an award-winning writer and editor who helps individuals and companies shape stories and narratives through her editorial consultancy firm, Smakdab. From 2009 to 2017 she was editor-in-chief of Los Angeles magazine; concurrently, from 2014 to 2017, she served as the senior vice president-editorial director for Emmis Publishing, overseeing the editorial content and digital strategies for Los Angeles, Texas Monthly, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Orange Coast magazines. She has worked with, and cultivated connections to, some of the country’s best feature writers and calls on them for the projects she works on today. Melton loves working with writers (so much so that she married one) and encouraging them to find and fine-tune their voices and create sentences that sing.
Awards and accolades
During her tenure as EIC, Los Angeles was nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) and won three: for General Excellence and for Feature Writing (the first ASME wins in the magazine’s history), and for Personal Service. The magazine was also recognized with three James Beard awards for its innovative food coverage and with 120 City and Regional Magazine Award nominations (and numerous wins). Melton wrote features as well at Los Angeles, including a profile of architectural photographer Julius Shulman that won the PEN Center USA Literary Journalism Award.
Deep roots in Los Angeles
Melton is the fifth generation to call Los Angeles home and a third-generation graduate of Hollywood High School (her father was the beloved drama teacher there). She studied theater and history at UCLA and her first job in journalism was at the LA Weekly, where she covered the riots, natural disasters, the trial of O.J. Simpson and, conversely, “The Best of L.A.” Two years in, she became the paper’s managing editor. In between the Weekly and Los Angeles gigs, she was an editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and wrote nearly 100 pieces capturing the essence of Southern California.
A few absurd credits that shouldn't be overlooked
Though Melton forsook a career in theater for one in journalism, it doesn’t mean she gave up performing. Her IMDB page consists of one credit—for her turn as Moonbeam, a melodica-playing musician in the indie film The New Women—but there are three glaring professional omissions:
In the “Peach Pit is Robbed” episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, she walks by Brandon and Steve (twice, no less) in the hallway (she knew the assistant director and pocketed $40 for her dramatic contributions)
That’s her heading into the Chinese Theater with her husband before the camera pans to Jim Carrey in the opening of The Majestic (her brother Greg was the movie’s production designer)
And that’s her handwriting on Leonardo DiCaprio’s wedding gift envelopes in Catch Me If You Can (some pro bono work for her brother Steve, the film’s prop master)
Other pressing curiosities
Beyond mid-century modernism and the performing arts, Melton's interests include books, train travel, police pursuits, Hawaii, swap meets, road trips, heist flicks, English history, vintage trailers (she owns a 1950 beauty and a recent 1975 addition to the fleet), The Amazing Race, and floaty pens.