TV Talk: WPXI-TV adds to on-air roster; Rick Sebak launches podcast

WPXI-TV made three recent on-air hires, including one familiar face (for those with a long local TV news memory).

Adis Juklo (pronounced “add-is” “you-klo”), who grew up in Lawrenceville and Aspinwall, is the station’s new weekend morning meteorologist.

Antoinette DelBel is a new full-time reporter.

Lonni Rivera is on her second stint at WPXI. She’s a freelance reporter who was previously on staff at the station in the early 2000s as Yolanda Hawkins.

Juklo arrives at Channel 11 from WHTM-TV, the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, where he delivered weekend morning forecasts. He actually started providing weather forecasts at WPXI last year on a freelance, fill-in basis with the blessing of his WHTM bosses. Juklo joined Channel 11 as a full-time staff member this month following the April departure of Jessica Faith.

Juklo graduated from Penn State in 2018 with a degree in meteorology and atmospheric sciences. His first interest in broadcasting dates to Fox Chapel High School (Class of 2014) where he stood in front of a green screen and offered a daily weather report during morning announcements close circuited to classrooms schoolwide.

Even before that, he remembers his first interest in weather came in fifth grade when a microburst hit Aspinwall.

“It tore down a lot of trees and I remember going out with my dad with a video camera looking at all the damage and being in awe of how it happened,” said Juklo, whose father, Semir, operates the Vocelli Pizza in Shaler. “After that, I had a feeling I was gonna want to do weather as a career.”

Juklo interned at the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh during college and at WTOV-TV in Steubenville, where he also freelanced as a fill-in meteorologist when home on college breaks.

He grew up watching Channel 11 and remembers when forecaster Scott Harbaugh arrived at the station in 2005. Juklo even shadowed Stephen Cropper on the job when Juklo was a sophomore in high school.

In addition to his love of Pittsburgh sports teams and Penn State, Juklo also cheers for the Bosnia-Herzegovina National Soccer Team (his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Bosnia in the 1990s before Juklo was born).

DelBel most recently worked at WTKR-TV, the CBS affiliate in Norfolk, Va., as a general assignment reporter. A Buffalo, N.Y., native, DelBel earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Daemen College, where she also served as a reporter and editor-in-chief at her college newspaper. She received a master’s in communication/TV broadcasting from New York Institute of Technology.

DelBel started in broadcast news in 2011 at Spectrum News in Buffalo. She took a break from TV to work as a communications director for a New York state senator before returning to TV in 2018 at WHAM-TV, the ABC station in Rochester, N.Y.

At Channel 11, DelBel will be a general assignment reporter working mostly nights and weekends. DelBel is glad to be closer to her hometown (“Please don’t hold it against me, I am a Buffalo Bills fan,” she said) and she has some relatives in Pittsburgh so “it’s almost felt like home already.”

She’s eager to learn more about the region, including name pronunciations of townships.

“I’m still learning the lay of the land,” she acknowledged. “Coming into this station, the seasoned journalists and photojournalists there make all the difference in the product.”

Rivera, who grew up in West Mifflin, previously was a Channel 11 reporter from 2003 to 2007 as Yolanda Hawkins, but she was always known by her nickname, Lonni, to friends and family. Hawkins is her mother’s last name.

“I decided to start using my nickname and my biological father’s name, which is Rivera,” she said. “It’s a way of honoring my mom — Lonni is very special name to her; she had a girlfriend name Lonni — and also a way of honoring my father.”

After her first WPXI stint, Rivera worked at stations all over California, including in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Bakersfield.

She came back to Pittsburgh during the pandemic (“That was a turning point for me,” she said) to be with her mom. After wrapping up unfinished business in California, she moved back in December to the same house she’d lived in when she worked at Channel 11 the first time — she’d been renting it out in the interim — and she moved her mom in with her. Rivera wanted a flexible, freelance schedule, and Channel 11 wanted another reporter.

“It’s just been good timing for both of us,” she said. “It’s nice to come back to a place where I have friends and wonderful relationships with the photographers who are still there and editors and producers. I was really touched by how many people remembered me.”

WQED launches Rick Sebak podcast

WQED-TV host Rick Sebak now has his own podcast, “Gumbands,” celebrating Pittsburgh people, history and products. The first two episodes are now available on all podcast platforms and at wqed.org/gumbands and on YouTube (some episodes are audio-only, some will have video).

Working with WQED producer Rich Capaldi, who Sebak credits with the idea for the podcast, Sebak’s first two “Gumbands” episodes feature soupmaker Sarah McAlee (AKA @brothmonger on Instagram) and local author Bill Tippins, who’s written two young adult novels set in prehistoric Pittsburgh.

Sebak said Monday the podcasts will run 30 minutes to an hour, and he’s recorded about a half-dozen so far. In addition to new interviews recorded in the WQED cafeteria (“It gets nice morning light reflected off Central Catholic High School,” Sebak said), he’ll also use outtakes from interviews he’s done for his WQED programs. He’s thinking about dusting off interviews with Michael Chabon as an early twentysomething author recorded on Flagstaff Hill and an interview with the late Jerry Weber of Jerry’s Records that was recorded for the 1990 show “Things That Aren’t There Anymore.”

Listening to the first episode Monday, “Gumbands” definitely has that Sebakian sensibility, albeit in a more free-flowing conversational form. It’s still a gentle, put-a-smile-on-your-face style that’s earned Sebak the goodwill of Pittsburgh viewers over the past three decades.

“Podcast just means ‘talk show,’ ” Sebak said, noting he’s not sure yet of the frequency of “Gumbands” releases. “If we can do one a week, I would love that, but I’m not gonna promise anything. We’re not yet a machine but we wanted to get this going to inspire ourselves as much as anybody else.”

As for the podcast’s title, Sebak said it follows after his “Nebby” series as “a Pittsburghese word I like.”

With his local focus on “Gumbands” at the moment, Sebak said he’s gearing up to try to persuade PBS to fund more national programs.

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at rowen@triblive.com or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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