Jessica Starr is a “home-grown” girl who went to school in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. Raised in Commerce Township, Starr attended Dublin Elementary School, Clifford H. Smart Middle School, and graduated from Walled Lake Central High School in 2001 before she went on to get her degree from Michigan State University in climatology and geography. She then continued her education at Mississippi State University, where she earned a certificate in broadcast meteorology. After starting her television career in Lansing and continuing it in Baltimore, Starr is now back in Michigan as part of the Fox 2 Weather Authority and is excited to be forecasting for all four seasons that Michigan has to offer. She will also be covering Michigan-made products as part of Fox’s “Made in Michigan” segments. When not enjoying her favorite restaurants such as Detroit Metro Coney Islands, Jet’s Pizza, Louie’s Pizza, and the Red Coat Tavern, Starr can be found spending time with her husband.
SCN: You graduated with a degree in climatology and geography from Michigan State University before completing a certificate program in broadcasting at Mississippi State. What made you decide to get into meteorology?
JS: Well, actually the certificate was in broadcast meteorology. Well, what really made me get into meteorology was that I always loved science and math. And it was a science that I could learn in the classroom, the teacher could teach it, and then I could walk outside and explain why the clouds were forming or what types of clouds those were. You know, explain why there’s lightning, explain why there’s thunder. You know — explain the why. That’s what I like. It’s very visual, and I’m a very visual learner. And I like that I can learn it in a semester, and then I can walk outside and explain what’s happening.
SCN: After school, you did some television work in Lansing and Kentucky before becoming a weekend meteorologist with Fox 45 in Baltimore. Please explain the process you had to go through to become a TV meteorologist. What was the most difficult aspect of that process?
JS: While in school at Michigan State, I did three internships. The first internship was at WDIV Channel 4 in Detroit. Then the second one was at WLNS Channel 6 in Lansing, and the last one was at WJBK Fox 2 in Detroit. So those internships are key because not only alongside your education with the university, you’re also gaining real-life experience and hands-on experience of what I’d be doing on a day-to-day basis.
I would say that it’s an extremely competitive business. And the hardest part was just getting your foot in the door — you know, having someone give you the opportunity. That’s the hardest part, and then once you get that opportunity, being able to prove to your bosses that you can do it.
SCN: You also did some feature reporting in Baltimore. Please share with us some of your favorite feature assignments and why you liked them.
JS: I did a lot of different things. I did it three days a week during the morning hours. We did a bunch of different things. One of them was Disney on Ice. If there was something new going on in the streets of downtown Baltimore, we would always cover it — Segways in the city, or they started doing scooters in the city. We always covered any musical events, state fairs, concert series, Roller Derby girls — really anything, especially charity. If firefighter departments were doing something or police departments, we covered it. We did Ravens, the football team out there. Anything that was local and for a good cause was really what we tried to report in the morning hours of the show.
SCN: Which do you enjoy more — reporting on the weather or feature reporting? Why?
JS: Weather is always my No. 1 passion. But what’s great about the job is that I do also get to do (features). I got to be able to go out into the community and relate with the people and give exposure to some things that might not ever get covered because they are a little bit on the smaller scale. So I always loved that. Weather was awesome, and I loved doing that but I also loved being out with the people.
SCN: You’ve now come back to southeastern Michigan working for Fox 2 as one of their meteorologists. What made you decide to return to Michigan?
JS: My husband and I are both from here, and I always wanted to come back to Michigan. Just to come back to being by family and friends. I’m home-grown, went to Michigan State, and proud to be a Spartan and excited to be back. It all kind of came together really fast, and I left Baltimore and knew I wanted to come back. And you have to be really proactive when you’re looking for a job and be a little bit aggressive. It was just the right place at the right time.
SCN: In addition to reporting on the weather, you also cover “Made in Michigan” segments. Please explain so far which has been your favorite “Made in Michigan” segment.
JS: Oh, they’ve been really great segments. I’m really excited I get to do this segment here in Michigan and in Detroit. They’ve all been great. I don’t know which is my favorite. They’ve all been really good. I think the one that covers the homeless coats and the girl who makes them down in Detroit (is my favorite) because she was such an inspiration to me. She was a girl who was still in college and making these homeless coats for those who are homeless and who unfortunately have to sleep on the streets in Detroit. And she just had such a giving heart that it inspired me and that’s probably the best one.
SCN: Of all the Michigan-made goods, which happens to be your personal favorite, and why?
JS: I hate to kind of pinpoint to just one thing. The one I didn’t know before until I started doing the segment was McClure’s Pickles. They offer a spicy pickle which I just think is phenomenal. It tastes great. I’ll give you another one of the ones I was kind of surprised about because we all know the Faygos and the Bettermade Chips. They get enough press. It’s the mom-and-pop shops that are working their butts off, working their tails off to keep a business going. So I would say McClure’s Pickles and Peteet’s Famous Cheesecake in Ferndale. Those would probably be my top two.
SCN: Lately, the country has been experiencing some extreme weather. What has been the craziest thing you’ve ever seen while covering the weather?
JS: That was in Baltimore with the two back-to-back blizzards that we got. That was crazy. I mean, I’ve seen snow from being in Michigan, but this was unreal. I think we broke the record in 2010. I don’t quite remember, but it was over 50 inches of snow in less than four days. The whole city completely shut down.
SCN: Wasn’t that also really unusual for Baltimore?
JS: Yes and no. I mean the way they really get their snowstorms is by Nor’easters that come up the coast. But to get two of them back-to-back like that was unusual.
SCN: If you could choose, where would be your ideal place to report on the weather and why?
JS: I guess my No. 1 weather phenomenon of things I love is hurricanes. I know we don’t obviously get hurricanes in Michigan, but I’m just very fascinated by them so maybe one day hopefully I’ll get to cover a hurricane and be actually out in the elements. Not in the whole hurricane, but to be able to not only track it but then I would just love to see one up close and personal.