Three years ago, Jessica Faith married the love of her life, Renaldo Pearson. Two weeks later, the couple moved to Pittsburgh as Faith got ready to join WPXI-TV’s meteorology team.
Her decision to take a job in a city that was totally unfamiliar to her resulted in Faith becoming the first Black woman meteorologist in Pittsburgh TV history.
“I’ve always known the importance of being Black and a woman in science and on TV news,” she told the Union Progress. “I try my best to represent well and be a role model because I know how much I would have loved to see someone who looks like me doing the weather in central Alabama. And while it’s an honor to break this barrier, it was past due, and I pray conditions are made so many more may come behind me.”
Now, it’s time for Faith’s next adventure. She recently announced via social media that she soon will be leaving Channel 11 for a meteorology position at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. Her last day on air will be April 21.
“Going to a top 10 market is a huge move for me professionally,” she said. “I just really felt like it came at the right time. … Leaping to Pittsburgh was something I was already happy with myself about. This right here, though, is really humbling.”
Faith is a Clanton, Ala., native with degrees in communications from Alabama A&M University and broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University. She spent two years at KLTV in Tyler, Texas, and another two years at WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Ala., before WPXI came calling.
She said that WPXI reached out to her, and the role “seemed like a really great opportunity” after getting to work in her home state. At that point, Faith knew so little about Pittsburgh that she had to consult a map to recall where in Pennsylvania it was. Any nerves she had about relocating to an entirely new place evaporated when she visited Pittsburgh and was “blown away within an hour of me being here” thanks to that famous view of Downtown upon exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
Once Faith got settled here, she began diving into Pittsburgh’s cultural ticks and discerning “what is significant to the viewers.” That partially involved learning what Pittsburghers do on the weekends so her weather forecasts could be practically applied to their lives. Faith felt like she “had to earn Pittsburgh’s love” before being fully accepted, but going through that process is how she eventually “fell so deeply in love with Pittsburgh.”
One particularly fun element of living here for her was experiencing heavy snowfalls. She reminisced about geeking out during winter 2020 as she was able to enjoy her first-ever white Christmas.
“I still remembered how I felt seeing snow blanket the ground and how magical it felt,” Faith said. “That also makes me unique to this market as far as being a meteorologist. I was so enthusiastic about a lot of snow coming our way.”
Her stint at WPXI began shortly after the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. As has been the case with many folks, the pandemic forced her and her husband to reflect on what was most important to them. Pearson grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, and as they contemplated expanding their own family, they wanted to be closer to at least one set of relatives.
“Family is No. 1,” Faith said. “It just so happened that my professional values and my family values have come into one so I can have both around the same place and area.”
She’s going to miss a lot of things about Pittsburgh, from the rivers to attending sporting events to seeing “black and gold everywhere.” Naturally, she is already most nostalgic about the yinzers she met along the way.
“I really liked that when I came here, people were just as nice as they were down south,” she said. “As a Southern girl, I appreciated getting Southern hospitality up north.”
Working amongst a WPXI cohort who are “so good and sure of themselves” really “brought out the best” in her. She wanted her Channel 11 colleagues to know how much they prepared her to work in a market like D.C. and to thank management for its “commitment to diversity” as exemplified by the major glass ceiling it broke simply by hiring her.
It was also important for her to tell WPXI viewers that “I think about them in every forecast” and that she has always been focused on highlighting “what’s important to them.” After announcing her imminent departure, she said she began seeing comments to the effect of “Pittsburgh is just a pit stop” for broadcast journalists with dreams of one day working in a bigger market. That idea doesn’t resonate with her at all.
“I hope Pittsburgh doesn’t feel that way,” she said. “I hope they know how great they are and the passion we put behind the information we give them. I will keep them in my heart wherever I go. I truly love the viewers and love this area.”