PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After 42-year career in television, KDKA favorite and beloved Pittsburgher Jon Burnett is heading into retirement.
Be sure to watch Jon’s goodbye and final broadcast Saturday morning
He recently sat down with KDKA Anchor Stacy Smith to reflect on his long, legendary and award-winning career, as well as his love for Pittsburgh.
After starting his career in his home state of Tennessee, Pittsburgh first met Jon Burnett in 1982, when KDKA hired him as the new host of “Evening Magazine.” First, with Liz Miles and then Mary Robb Jackson.
“It was incredible. I got to see the world,” said Burnett of his new job in Pittsburgh. “We were encouraged, Liz and I were, and Mary Robb too, to do our own stories and to feature ourselves in those stories.”
Farewell Jon Burnett: Liz Miles, Mary Robb Jackson And Brenda Waters
One of his favorites was covering the “Jeepers Jamboree.”
“We went out to northern California, and were in the Sierras, high in the Sierras, and driving jeeps over the roughest terrain I’ve ever seen or been on. Most of the ground we covered did not look like a road to me,” Jon said.
Stacy Smith: “You took some risks on some of these stories?”
Jon Burnett: “I did, I did. I broke my back in one story. I thought I’d broken my ankle on one of my skydives. My jumps, where my main chute didn’t open, and if I was ever going to panic in my entire life that was it, and so I had to pull my reserve, which fortunately did open, and I landed hard.”
Stacy Smith: “You did a story on your parents’ farm one time, didn’t you?”
Jon Burnett: “Yeah. One of the reasons I went down there to do it is because I knew it would connect with Pittsburghers. Even though many Pittsburghers couldn’t relate to life on the farm and living out in the country like that, they identify with family strongly. Family is important here in western Pennsylvania, just like it is down there in eastern Tennessee.”
Three years into his run on “Evening Magazine,” Jon began doing double duty when he was tapped as Patrice King Brown’s new co-host on “Pittsburgh 2Day.”
“In ’85, John Wade left the station and they asked me if I would come on board and be Patrice’s cohost, and I said absolutely. This gave me an opportunity to do more live TV,” Jon said. “I was probably most at home on Pittsburgh 2Day.”
In fact, Patrice sent Jon a farewell message for his retirement.
“JB, we had some wonderful years together. I wish you the very best in retirement. Travel, relax, enjoy your family, take care. Much love, my friend,” she said on the message played on Pittsburgh Today Live.
Patrice King Brown’s Message:
In 1990, “Pittsburgh 2Day” came to an end. Then, in early 1991, “Evening Magazine” also signed off.
However, Jon still had a year on his contract, and it just so happened that, at the same time, KDKA was in need of a new weatherman.
For 28 years now, Jon has been a trusted member of the KDKA Weather Team, covering every shift, including, for many years, weekend mornings with Brenda Waters.
He’s covered everything from snowstorms to floods to tornadoes. In fact, he won an Emmy for a series he did on tornadoes in the mid-90s.
While keeping busy in the weather center, one of his favorite programs got new life. Instead of just “Pittsburgh 2Day,” it became “Pittsburgh Today Live.”
When Kristine Sorensen took over as host of PTL in 2006, Jon became her sidekick. And, for the next decade, Jon got a second chance to live out what he calls his “Walter Mitty” fantasies.
Kristine Sorensen’s Message:
“It was every bit as fun as it had been the first time I’d done it,” he said.
Farewell Jon Burnett: Patrice King Brown & Kristine Sorensen
As he heads into retirement, Jon says he’s had a blessed career and a wonderful life here in Pittsburgh.
“I have been blessed to work, not only on fun stories and fun events, but with fun people. Great people. This has been my second family,” said Burnett. “I don’t think I deserved it. I don’t think I’ve been talented enough to be what I’ve been, where I’ve been, but I’m here, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the ride.”
We also said farewell to several people that helped KDKA for several years behind the scenes from creative services, to the newsroom, to the studio and each has made significant contributions to the legacy of KDKA.
KDKA Says Farewell