Story and Photos by Robert Hester
“I knew from a young age I wanted to choose a career that allowed me to focus on both science and media. In the fourth grade I remember learning about the water cycle and instantly becoming fascinated with how the planet recycles and then reuses water. While I was in college, I leaned towards broadcasting because public speaking was something that always came naturally but water and weather never left my brain.” Those are the words of someone who, literally, was born to have careers as public speaker, and a meteorologist! If you live in the big media market of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the name Madi Baggett may not be a household name; she is the morning meteorologist at WJAC-TV in the Central PA market of Altoona, Johnstown and State College, PA. However, before she landed the gig as a TV meteorologist in Central PA, Madi grew up in the same Western PA neighborhood she’d graduate from high school in Southwestern PA, Moon Area High School. After receiving a BA in Visual Media at John Carroll University, Madi then went to school at Mississippi State University to take additional classes in meteorology and “Things just started to fall in place,” she said, “I feel very fortunate to have found a career that allows me to combine my two passions.”
As she mentioned at the first sentence of this story; one of Madi’s passions is public speaking. And one of the outlets in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that (pun intended) gave her a voice was, of all places, the Pennsylvania Lottery. “I absolutely loved announcing for the PA Lottery,” Madi said about her experience there, “it was such a cool and rare opportunity.” She credits her role at the PA Lottery as a place where she learned, “Proper breathing and pacing techniques”, it’s something Madi still uses to this day. But Madi says that her favorite part of working the Pennsylvania’s favorite game of numbers, the PA Lottery, was being able to work closely with other lottery employees. “Everybody [at the Lottery] was incredibly supportive and made me feel comfortable even when I would stumble.”
Like her present tenure as a meteorologist at WJAC-TV, Madi’s tenure as an announcer at the PA Lottery wouldn’t have been possible if it had not been for her being a radio DJ at a station in Mifflin County, PA. “I honestly don’t think I would have had the confidence to even try TV if it wasn’t for radio,” Madi said, “Radio gave me the freedom I needed to develop my own broadcasting style, which is something that is difficult to teach; being a disc jockey gave the ability to indulge in that hobby for a few years.” When she arrived at WJACTV, Jessica Guay was starting to make a name for herself as one of the station’s top anchors and reporters. “Working with Jessica was great,” Madi said about her time as one of Jessica’s colleagues at WJAC-TV. And aside from sharing major stories and updates on-camera, Madi also said this about her experience working at WJAC with Jessica, who now is a Pittsburgh TV reporter at KDKA, “We both share a love for animals and snacks, so we got along well from the start. Jess and I also share a similar sense of humor so working with her in the mornings was a lot of fun. Even though I miss her being a part of the team, I am incredibly excited for her and happy she landed in Pittsburgh!” When she landed the gig as WJAC’s newest meteorologist/on-air personality in late 2019—which was a period at a time before the COVID-19 pandemic—one of Madi’s big, and fun duties she tended to on a day-to-day basis as a representative of the first TV station in the Central PA market was going out into the community and connecting with her viewers through various events, mostly events held at school events throughout the Central PA market. “The weather team would also make appearances at schools which was always fun,” Madi said about her experiences interacting with Central PA school students. Obviously, the pandemic is the main reason for two things lately; 1. Madi, nor her WJAC colleagues, aren’t able to hold interactive events in-person. 2. Thanks to some advent by the name of social media—Facebook and YouTube: Madi Baggett, Twitter: @madithemet—Madi is still able to make “personal connections” with her viewers/fans.
You know the old saying about having 15 minutes of fame. In the case of Madi, she believes that the biggest, yet frightening accomplishment so far in her young career was going on the air live on WJAC during a tornado warning by herself for, yes, 15 minutes. “I had never done wall-to-wall coverage before,” Madi said about that experience, “[and] I was terrified.” However, in spite of her nerves, Madi did manage to survive that 15 minute-long, live on-air broadcast, and that accomplishment is something Madi considers a personal “win.” When it’s safe for her to go on a vacation again, the first place Madi would like to celebrate that victory, and every other victory in her career at the place this reporter would like to celebrate its many victories in their career, “Anywhere with a beach!”