Monica Pearson brings five decades of media experience to new AJC talk show

Her life since she left the anchor desk at WSB-TV in 2012 has been anything but idle

Mike Render, an Atlanta musician and activist known as “Killer Mike,” showed palpable joy in a studio last month sitting next to broadcast legend Monica Pearson.

Cameras focused in on Pearson.

“You were born the year that I came to Atlanta in April (1975),” Pearson said. “I came to Atlanta in August. You can rightfully say you grew up watching me.”

“Absolutely! In other places of the world, Black women were not in charge and on television,” Killer Mike said. “That was the reality you helped shape for me.”

Monica Pearson speaks with Killer Mike during the AJC show, filmed, Friday, December 15, 2023, in Atlanta. Her celebrity interview show on the AJC will be similar to her WSB-TV’s “Monica Close Ups.” Pearson brings five decades of experience to new talk show. (Jason Getz /


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A TV news legend came on the local scene in 1975 when Monica Kaufman made history as the first African American to anchor an Atlanta newscast for WSB-TV. Generations of Atlantans dutifully tuned in the longtime WSB anchor team of "John and Monica" -- veteran anchorman John Pruitt (left) and Kaufman -- until Pruitt's retirement in 2010. Kaufman, who later went by Monica Pearson, retired in 2012. Courtesy of WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV file

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Credit: WSB-TV file

Pearson’s presence on TV as Atlanta’s first Black evening anchor shaped multiple generations of Atlantans. Known for much of that time by her maiden name, Kaufman, until she married DeKalb County police executive John Pearson Sr. in 2005, Pearson ruled the evening news anchor desk at Channel 2 Action News (WSB-TV), the No. 1 station in town, for more than three decades.

“She came to a city where race relations were uneasy and she had to deal with nasty phone calls and letters,” said John Pruitt, her co-anchor for much of her time at WSB-TV. “But she overcame all that and won people over. People could relate to her. She was so human on the air. She had a warm, outgoing personality on air. And she had spontaneity. Early on, she’d make a quip in a middle of a story, and I’d be like, ‘Can you do that?’”

Atlantans felt so comfortable with her, they would know who you’re talking about by simply uttering “Monica” — like Cher or Madonna.

Channel 2 Action News co-anchor John Bachman hugs Monica Pearson on her final day at work in July 2012. 
John Spink,

Credit: Rodney Ho

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Credit: Rodney Ho

Although Pearson technically retired from WSB-TV in July 2012, her life the past 12 years has been anything but idle. She completed a master’s degree. She hosted multiple TV and radio shows. At least once a week, she’ll emcee a charity event or speak to a civic group or school.

Now, at age 76, she is literally juggling two interview programs including “The Monica Pearson Show,” a new show for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“My husband says the only thing I’ve failed at is retirement,” said Pearson as she dabbed on makeup a few minutes before taping her Killer Mike interview at a studio in downtown Atlanta.

“The truth is she doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do or anything she doesn’t believe in,” said her husband John.

On her new AJC show, which debuts Jan. 16 on and the AJC app for subscribers, she will be speaking to movers and shakers largely from metro Atlanta covering the worlds of entertainment, sports, food and business, among others. The first four episodes available that day will feature Killer Mike, TV host and food science expert Alton Brown, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor and former Atlanta radio personality Elle Duncan.

“You don’t have to know Monica to enjoy the show, but knowing Monica makes it that much better,” said executive producer Samantha Stamler.

The Gupta episode will be released free to all on YouTube, but the rest will be for AJC subscribers only. Future episodes, which will air weekly, will feature best-selling Atlanta-based author Mary Kay Andrews, rapper and actor T.I., chefs Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips from Atlanta restaurant Lazy Betty, “Up and Vanished” podcaster Payne Lindsey, and comedian and actor Ms. Pat.

Monica Pearson interviews Alton Brown, the TV host and food science expert from Atlanta, for "The Monica Pearson Show." Courtesy of Mara Davis


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The interviews are not focused on recent news events but are meant to be more evergreen in nature as Pearson delves more deeply into the lives of the subjects and what makes them tick.

“Monica’s secret sauce is her simplicity,” said Mara Davis, a former Atlanta radio personality who books the talent for the show. “Sometimes the easiest questions, the most basic questions are the best ones. She has gotten revealing answers that are deep and rich and layered.”

For example, with Gupta, she got him to dig deep into his childhood as “the only brown kid” in a small town in the 1970s by simply asking, “Growing up in Novi, Michigan, as a minority, what was it like?”

“People feel like they are speaking to a friend, not a show host,” Stamler said. “She creates this approachable safe space for them to open up.”

Pearson will also continue hosting an interview show for Atlanta-based Gray Television’s Peachtree TV broadcast channel, which had a non-exclusive contract with Pearson going back to 2022.

“It’s a little crazy,” she admitted. “For Peachtree TV, I’m producing and writing. With the AJC, all I have to do is research, sit down and talk and write a monthly column. That’s pretty easy.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution publisher Andrew Morse pitched her last year on the idea of the show. “I was shocked!” she said, but it was immediately appealing to be “back with the Cox family.”

For Morse, hiring Pearson was a no brainer. “Monica is a singular talent,” he said. “We’re excited to tap into her experience and the deep connections she has with our community ... This show will allow us to attract her fans and followers to the AJC.”

On and off camera, she has made life easy for the producers of the show. “She embodies charisma when she walks in a room,” said Stamler, who has worked at CNN, CBS, Great Big Story and is head of video and audio for the AJC. “She takes her job seriously. She sits down and nails it. She can read a teleprompter in one shot. She does all her own research. She works so hard.”

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Pearson has always loved doing celebrity interviews. She did more than 170 for WSB-TV over 20-plus years. Among her favorites: Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Andrew Young, Ted Turner and Barbara Walters.

“We all know the celebrity,” she said. “I want to know the real person.”

It was big news when Pearson, at age 64, announced her pending retirement from the Channel 2 Action News anchor desk in early 2012. She said she was ready to pass the baton to then 44-year-old Jovita Moore. “I’ve earned the right to rest,” she said. “No more breaking news. No more working on holidays.”

Her immediate post-retirement goal involved plenty of work of a different nature: pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. For two years, she commuted three days a week from her home in Henry County to Athens, taking classes on topics like research, literature and statistics.

“It was amazing to me,” said her husband John. “My wife would do all-nighters at her age. She had to make sure her papers were the very best. When a professor gave her a C, she was livid. The professor told her she was an Emmy Award-winning TV writer, but she needed to learn to be a research writer. So she learned to write from a different perspective and had A’s after that.”

Inspired by a class taught by Janice Hume, head of the Grady journalism department, Pearson wrote her master’s thesis on Reconstruction-era news coverage of Georgia’s first Black U.S. representative, Jefferson Long. She graduated in 2014 magna cum laude.

“She set her own celebrity aside and poured her heart into academia,” Hume said. “It was the same type of preparation and professionalism she had at WSB-TV.”

Monica Pearson graduated with a master's degree at the University of Georgia. Courtesy

Credit: COT

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Credit: COT

Degree in hand, Pearson intended to teach and bring decades of broadcast knowledge to students. But she realized after a semester at Atlanta Metropolitan College in 2014 that it wasn’t the right outlet for her.

“I didn’t like the mechanics that went with it,” Pearson said. “Putting in grades into the computer, tracking people down. It wasn’t for me.”

She maintained her public profile in a more modest way by hosting a Sunday afternoon personality and music show, then a weekly public affairs show, on R&B station Kiss 104.1, a sister media outlet to WSB-TV. She spent five years there.

“It was to keep my hand in the business” she said.

After leaving WSB-TV, Monica Pearson spent five years hosting radio shows at Kiss 104.1. Courtesy

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Her relationship with Kiss also led her to endorsement deals, something she didn’t do as a journalist. The longest lasting one has been with Montlick Injury Attorneys.

“I got a lot of flak from reporters for it, but I did my research,” Pearson said. “I liked what they did with veterans. It was important to me to be aligned with someone who had the same values.”

Melinda Jeffress, head of marketing for Montlick, said Pearson is now interwoven into the firm’s charity events and objectives.

“It has grown from just her being a spokesperson to being an extension of Montlick within the community and on television and radio,” Jeffress said.

In 2017, Pearson found a new place to be more opinionated than she ever had before. Teya Ryan, who ran Georgia Public Broadcasting from 2009 to 2023, asked Pearson to join “A Seat at the Table,” a new show featuring three Black women of different generations discussing topics such as interracial dating, aging and Black fatherhood. The show ran three seasons from 2017 to 2020.

“This was Monica unleashed,” Ryan said. “It is an understatement to say that Monica taught me so much about the challenges and the beauty of the Black woman’s experience.

Pearson said she enjoyed every minute of it. “The show was aimed at Black women, but white women watched it and said thank you,” she said.

Christine White (from left), Denene Millner and Monica Pearson hosted the GPB show "A Seat at the Table." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

Credit: Rodney Ho

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Credit: Rodney Ho

Pearson, survivor of both breast and liver cancer, said her only concession to age is a cane. “I’ve got bad knees,” she said, blaming years of running and tennis.

Otherwise, she is just happy to stay busy and do what she loves.

“She genuinely likes being part of the conversation,” Pruitt said. “That’s just in her DNA. More power to her. I’m on the sidelines applauding her.”


“The Monica Pearson Show.” Watch now.