CBS News reporter to serve as parade marshal

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BUCKHANNON — Weijia Jiang can often be spotted on “CBS Evening News” and “CBS This Morning,” but on Saturday she will be back in Buckhannon, the place that nurtured her passion for journalism, as the 2018 Grand Feature Parade marshal.

Having grown up in Buckhannon since the age of 2, the CBS News correspondent has many fond memories of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival and the town itself.

“I was really excited and honored,” Jiang said of her selection as parade marshal.  “I grew up in Buckhannon, so it holds a really dear place in my heart. It’s where I found my passion for journalism at the really young age of 13. I have really fond memories of the Strawberry Festival. I always thought it was really cool to see who the grand marshal was going to be every year.”

The Strawberry Festival holds other memories for Jiang as well.

“I just loved the carnival,” she said. “My friends and I would go every night it was in town, riding the rides and eating all the food that was bad for us. I loved the parades, not only the parade on Saturday but all of them. It was so exciting to get together with friends and sit on the lawn on Kanawha and watch all the parades. It was obviously the most exciting time of the year for Buckhannon and I remember really feeling the community coming together.”

Her parents, Liya Wei and Huade “John” Jiang, who owned the Chinatown Restaurant, will be along Strawberry Lane and Jiang expects to see many more familiar faces as she waves to the crowd.

“I have a lot of friends still in Buckhannon so I am looking forward to reuniting with them,” she said.

Jiang’s interest in broadcast journalism was kindled in an eighth-grade class with Dianne Williams.

“For some reason, Mrs. Williams just saw my potential for broadcast journalism,” Jiang said. “She saw my curiosity and how much I loved asking questions.”

The national student broadcast Channel One offered a competition inviting middle and high school students to apply to produce their own shows.

“Mrs. Williams and my classmates spent a lot of time making this application video for me,” Jiang said. “My theme was, ‘I will go anywhere for the news.’ I dressed in different costumes such as a mermaid and pretended I was going underwater.

“I was selected as a student anchor and reporter. They flew me out to Los Angeles for two weeks and we produced the show.”

From there, Jiang knew what she wanted to pursue for a career.

“I never let go of that dream,” she said. “I thought, wow, you can get paid to tell people’s stories and to ask questions and travel. I just thought that was the neatest thing and I never would have been exposed to it had it not been for the middle school offering that class and Mrs. Williams having faith in me. I’m doing my dream job. I’m so grateful for my job now and it all started in Buckhannon.”

After entering high school, Jiang worked on the high school video news staff under Julia Conley.

“She was also extremely supportive,” Jiang recalled. “We had some gear and we were able to shoot and edit video. It fueled my interest even more.”

“I’m always the biggest supporter of the public school system,” she added. “When the teachers had their strike, I was proud to be someone who went through West Virginia public schools, and that is another reason I am excited to come home this year and represent Buckhannon.”

After graduating with the B-UHS Class of 2001, Jiang received her undergraduate degree from The College of William and Mary. She earned a Master of Science in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University.

In 2015, Jiang was named a correspondent for CBS Newspath, CBS’s 24-hour television newsgathering service for CBS stations and broadcasters around the world. More recently, she has seen a lot of reporting duties for “CBS Evening News” and “CBS This Morning.”

Jiang was in town for the 2017 West Virginia Strawberry Festival and said she is excited to come home again this year to experience the festival with her friends and family.

“I’m most looking forward to getting a pepperoni roll from The Donut Shop,” she said.

Look for Jiang in the Grand Feature Parade which will traverse the 2.5-mile Strawberry Lane beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 19.

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