Cindy Fitzgibbon has made history in the Boston television news market. After 27 years in the industry, she has been promoted to chief meteorologist at WCVB Channel 5.
“It’s a big honor,” expressed Fitzgibbon. “It is something that I never thought I would see.”
Fitzgibbon, an Armenian American and native New Englander, sat down with the Weekly for a virtual interview almost a week into her new role leading the station’s StormTeam 5. Behind her was a bustling newsroom getting ready for the noon broadcast.
Her day had started at 1:44 in the morning amid heavy downpours overnight. Fitzgibbon said she allows herself two taps of the snooze button on her iPhone before getting ready to head out the door and make her way into the newsroom in Needham. During her short commute, she’s on the phone with her EyeOpener producer, who is busy building the rundown for the live newscast that begins at 4:30 a.m. Fitzgibbon, who appears on air every five to ten minutes, creates and updates her own weather graphics throughout the fast-paced newscast, which ends at 7 a.m. Then, she does live cut-ins for ABC’s Good Morning America through nine o’clock. After a team meeting at 9:30 a.m., Fitzgibbon goes back on camera for promos and the Midday newscast. She’s off the air at 12:30 p.m. and dedicates the remainder of her day to her family.
“[My kids] have grown up with their meteorologist mom who gets up and goes to work in the middle of the night, but then I’m available. I’m around. I am present. I am involved in what they’re doing,” said the proud mom of two high school athletes, “I stay up as late as I can with them before I have to go to bed to prepare for the next day. It’s the best of both worlds. I get to do both.”
WCVB announced Fitzgibbon’s promotion following the retirement of veteran meteorologist Harvey Leonard. Fitzgibbon is the first female chief meteorologist in the Boston market, a significant chapter in her career and a celebration of women in the field of broadcast meteorology. In 2018, the American Meteorological Society, of which Fitzgibbon is a member, studied the underrepresentation of female meteorologists in leadership roles. Researchers found that women make up 29 percent of all broadcast meteorologist positions, but only eight percent claim the title of chief.
“Traditionally, a chief meteorologist has been male, and traditionally, the chief meteorologist works nights Monday through Friday. It’s just kind of the way it always was,” explained Fitzgibbon. “That is clearly not the standard anymore. It was just slow in coming to Boston. Finally, we have our first female chief meteorologist in this market.”
Decades before breaking barriers in Boston, Fitzgibbon was just a young girl growing up near Portland, Maine with an eye to the sky. “I was always very curious about the weather, and I was obsessed with snow,” she said. Fitzgibbon even maintained a journal of snow measurements that she would share with her disinterested friends. “Had there been such a thing as social media and Twitter, I’m sure I would have been sending those amounts in to the local meteorologist,” she said.
One week after graduating from Lyndon State College in Vermont in 1995, Fitzgibbon packed her bags for her first on-air job in Bismarck, North Dakota. “I was as green as green can be,” recalled Fitzgibbon, who, at the age of 21, became that market’s first accredited meteorologist. She would soon move on in 1996 to WPTZ (Burlington, Vermont-Plattsburgh, New York market), where they were starting a brand new morning show. Four years later, she traveled to the Sunshine State and became the first female degreed meteorologist at WBBH in Fort Myers, Florida.
Fitzgibbon would eventually make her way back up the east coast to New England, where she would begin her decades-long career in the Boston market, delivering her morning forecasts at WFXT (Boston 25) and now at WCVB Channel 5.
“The weather is tough here in New England. It’s a craft that I have been trying to perfect for 20 years in this market,” she said. “You’re always learning as a forecaster, but the longer you spend forecasting in an area, the better you get.”
In addition to meteorology and motherhood, Fitzgibbon is also passionate about her Armenian heritage. A descendant of Genocide survivors, Fitzgibbon has fond memories of growing up around her Armenian aunts and cousins. She remembers her maternal grandmother speaking Armenian with her and teaching her the language. “It’s important for me that my kids recognize their heritage and know what that means,” said Fitzgibbon.
During the 2020 Artsakh War, Fitzgibbon helped raise awareness on social media about the atrocities taking place in her homeland. “I felt compelled to put it out there to a broader audience that might not be aware,” she explained. “There was a part of me that was impacted, and I wanted to share my Armenian heritage and share what was happening to draw more attention to it to an audience that might not know about it.”
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Fitzgibbon is a frequent headliner of events hosted by Armenian Heritage Park, and she is also a member of the advisory council for the Armenian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA).
Viewers in Boston can continue to count on Fitzgibbon as WCVB’s chief meteorologist to deliver accurate and informative forecasts to start their day. Fitzgibbon says she is also excited to spearhead a Hearst Television initiative called “Forecasting our Future” with special coverage focused on the impacts of climate change on local communities.