In January, WPXI (Pittsburgh) Anchors David Johnson and Peggy Finnegan will have been anchoring the news together for 25 years.
The co-anchors are already longest-running local news-anchor team in Pittsburgh television history and one of the longest in the nation.
Twenty-five years for a single anchor is extraordinary, says Robert Thompson, professor of media and culture at Syracuse University.
“For a team to stay together for 25 years is almost unheard of,” Thompson says. “You're talking about two different people who have to be incredibly stable in a field that is unstable. Those in TV news tend to move around all over the place, to bigger markets or for personal reasons, or new management shakes things up and they're fired.”
After an anchor team reaches 10 years together, they have the advantage of nostalgia working, he says. “When you have that kind of continuity of 25 years together, a lot of people living in Pittsburgh may never have known a world without these two people together. A lot of these viewers' parents may have broken up, but these anchors are still together.”
Their achievement, begun in 1990, surprises even Johnson, who has been in television journalism for 35 years, and Finnegan, who got her start in radio in 1982 before moving to TV in 1983. Johnson has been through 11 news directors and two general managers since coming to the station in 1985.
When he arrived in Pittsburgh, Johnson decided to give it three years and then re-evaluate. “You just never know when you get hired some place if you'll catch on, if they'll like you and you'll like them, or if you'll connect with your co-anchor,” he says. “We loved it.”
Finnegan's original intent was to work for a few years in Pittsburgh — “a great TV market,” she says — and then move on to a larger city. “Nothing like marrying a Pittsburgh boy and starting a family to make you realize you're exactly where you're supposed to be,” she says.
“Part of what David and I have together is mutual respect and admiration for the abilities and talents of the other. When you add that we also truly like each other, you've got the foundation for a good team.”
Johnson offers this assessment: “I think we're both good journalists. I'm not bad at being a ‘hard news' reader. She is so wonderful at delivering emotion and compassion. I don't possess that like she does. Together, it seems to work.
“She is a good reporter who, as such a good person and mother, can translate that in a way the viewer can relate to, better than I can. She's Catholic, I'm Jewish. She lives in the suburbs, I live in the city. We have some contrasts, but we love each other and love working together.”
FTVLive spent 4 years working with both Johnson and Finnegan and we can say that both are some of the nicest people you will meet in this business full with not so nice people.