Sally Wiggin

Through three decades of changing, often turbulent times, this steel magnolia has kept Pittsburgh anchored.

Photo courtesy of WTAE-TV

The young woman who arrived at Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV in 1980 wasn't planning to stay. She took her seat behind the anchor desk with other things in mind: raising a family, traveling the world and maybe using her background in Asian studies to become a professor of Chinese history.

Sally Wiggin never expected to become a household name in Pittsburgh.

But today, she is the familiar face and reassuring voice whom a generation of Pittsburghers call their own. She isn't from here in the traditional sense—the Michigan native wasn't born or raised in southwestern Pennsylvania. And yet, after seeing this city through three decades of startling evolution, Wiggin has become an integral part of its fabric.

Pittsburgh was a drastically different place when she arrived—mills were closing and the unemployment rate was at a peak of 18.2 percent. The high-tech economy and eco-friendly progress that has brought the G-20 Summit and World Environment Day to our doorstep had not begun to emerge.

"When I got here, Pittsburgh was just embarking on a wrenching transition," she says. "The competition from foreign steelmakers ... I watched it happen. The mills closing, the layoffs. We covered it nonstop. A region known for how important the nuclear family was saw the children of those families have to move to other cities and other states to find jobs."

Nightly newscast after nightly newscast, the years unfolded. Pittsburgh, she says, became her family. And Pittsburghers routinely return the love: Walk into a restaurant with Wiggin, and you'll find half the room smiling at her.

When asked about that, she seems just a little surprised by it even after all these years. "Lately, I've been realizing how fortunate I have been and how deeply grateful I am for these 30 years," she says.

Asking Wiggin to look back on the past three decades is a bit like asking a relative to describe 30 years of family history in one sitting. Even for a born communicator, there are too many meaningful moments and too many crucial turning points to summarize.

And so, rather than a summation, here are a few pointed questions:
 

Staying Power

Career opportunities for women have increased considerably since Wiggin arrived here in 1980. But we live in a culture that often judges women as much for their youth and beauty as for their intellect and accomplishments. Has it been tough to sustain a 30-year television career as a woman?

Wiggin points out that women now make up a large portion of those working in television news in Pittsburgh. That's progress. But she agrees that America's love affair with youth and beauty can still be a challenge for women.

"In some ways, reality TV has made it worse. Everyone wants to be on TV now," she explains. "We have this incessant bombardment of the culture of celebrity ... so everyone in their own way now wants to have some kind of celebrity. And when you have that many people clamoring for it, the idea is that you have to be one of the beautiful people to have it."

As Wiggin goes on to explain, "In a culture in which things are changing hourly, the desire for something new" is constant.

And yet, despite that, her popularity hasn't waned over the years. Young Pittsburghers keep surprising her: In 2008, listeners of the morning show on 96.1 KISS FM, a radio station geared toward teens and 20-somethings,  voted her "Best TV Personality."

She also has developed a following among younger Pittsburghers who know her from regular appearances on the WDVE radio morning show, where she would comment on current issues in Pittsburgh and banter with the hosts.

One secret to her ongoing popularity might be an unorthodox career move she made years ago: News anchors don't normally get involved in sports coverage, but Wiggin began doing Steelers specials, starting with "Black and Gold Primetime" in 1993.

An athlete and avid sports fan, she was perfectly in her element. Those appearances added a new dimension to the way many local TV viewers saw her.

Technological Revolution

While covering the U.S Women's Open Championship in July, Wiggin was approached by a fan. As she remembers, he smiled, offered an enthusiastic fist bump and said, "Sally Wiggin, I watch you every day at noon on my computer."

That illustrates how, during Wiggin's tenure in Pittsburgh, few things have changed as much as technology. She has embraced blogging, Facebook and Twitter. But after so many decades of carefully reporting the news, she admits it can be difficult to turn off her perfectionism and to just quickly type out a Tweet.

"I always want to make it so complicated," she says. "I'll admit it; I actually find Facebook fascinating and fun ... but I get home, and I'm exhausted. And I'd just like to veg and watch something silly and go to dinner with friends."

Reflecting on a downside of our high-tech wonders, Wiggin asks and then answers her own question: "Do you know why everybody is slow to go through a green light now? They're texting at the light."

Her energy, as always, seems boundless. She has no interest in stopping at a milestone like 30 years.

"Pittsburgh has turned a corner," she says. "We're on the cutting edge of a lot of technology ... and a lot of those children who left as young adults—they're coming back here to raise their own children here."

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

The stunning photo of a star trail around Mt. Rainier took two hours to shoot.
Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald say the PUC went too far when it fined the ride-sharing company $11.3 million.
The Story Behind This Epic Picture of Lightning Over Pittsburgh

The Story Behind This Epic Picture of Lightning Over Pittsburgh

Most people crawl deeper under the covers during a nighttime thunderstorm, photographer Dave DiCello does just the opposite.
Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

According to a financial advising site, Pittsburgh is both affordable and a good place to find a job for those fresh out of college.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

The stunning photo of a star trail around Mt. Rainier took two hours to shoot.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

The much-anticipated Japanese pub from Tamari's Roger Li and Round Corner Cantina's Derek Burnell will serve food and drink deep into the night.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Lawrenceville's New, Different Nighttime (and Morning) Destination

Lawrenceville's New, Different Nighttime (and Morning) Destination

The Abbey on Butler — part coffeehouse, part restaurant, part bar — could prove to be a major Lawrenceville destination.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Still Searching For Response to Arrieta-Caliber Dominance

Pirates Still Searching For Response to Arrieta-Caliber Dominance

The Bucs’ wild-card failures the last two seasons have cast a shadow of doubt if not impending doom over a season that otherwise ought to be ripe with promise.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Welcome Warm Weather with This Bright Summer Shift Dress

Welcome Warm Weather with This Bright Summer Shift Dress

Local fashion line Kelly Lane has the perfect dress to kick off your summer style.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Reviews of "Mother's Day," "Keanu," "Green Room" and local film news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

You don’t always need blue skies and sunshine to have a beautiful and memorable wedding. One couple shares their advice on making the most of a rainy wedding day and what to do when the forecast is less than ideal.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation hosts a one-of-a-kind house tour on May 7.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

The Tech Savvy program from the American Association of University Women aims to interest middle school girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Comments