finish lines: Michael Challik and Mary Robb Jackson

Retired KDKA reporter Mary Robb Jackson and her husband retired news photographer Michael Challik at their Mt Lebanon home.

Ordale Boulevard residents Michael Challik, KDKA’s chief photographer until his retirement last March, and KDKA news reporter/anchor Mary Robb Jackson, who retired in 2014, met in the newsroom in the early 1980s, married and later had their daughter, Mariel. They worked together on many assignments that took them around the world and won them many awards, including seven regional Emmys, and recently, the President’s Award from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania.  These days, Michael is “playing as much golf as humanly possible,” and Mary Robb (who answers for both of them) volunteers with Reading Is Fundamental, and Pittsburgh Hires Veterans. They love to travel “as far afield as is possible.”

Many couples couldn’t work together.  What made your partnership successful? Michael was asked that many times over the years—I’m sure he wondered that himself a few times! Television news is a high stress occupation. There are daily deadlines—at times in situations where you have no control. Michael and I had some “interesting” moments, [photojournalist] Steve Willing witnessed one such event (and thought he’d been drafted into a dysfunctional family) leading up to a live shot where Michael and I had too much to do and way too little time!  It was not pretty. However, the truth is that Michael and I did some of our best work together. Michael is an incredible field producer. He takes as much responsibility for a story’s success as I do.  He also has a great eye, so his video is pure pleasure to write to. We also both have a passion for storytelling. Simply said, Michael and I loved doing what we did—especially together.

What is your favorite shared professional experience? We see our 40-year careers as a privilege, traveling to Asia, Europe, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Canada and many U.S. cities. We covered presidents, celebrities, and Michael was on the sidelines for every Steelers game, Super Bowls, Stanley Cups, World Series, and countless other sports events. But some of our most memorable stories were with everyday people coping with extraordinary challenges. We learned so much. Our most incredible experience was going to Vietnam in 1995—the 20th anniversary of the fall of Saigon—with a veteran of that war. We produced nine stories in five days, each profoundly touching the three of us. The people and their stories changed us forever.

Photography by Martha Rial