There are no good shifts in local television news but among the worst, I’d say that the morning shift has to be the hardest. I’ve only had to fill-in for a week of mornings here and there, and I can tell you that by Thursday and Friday, my brain is pretty much mush. Its a change in lifestyle, and it can be a big adjustment for any broadcast meteorologist making that transition. I spoke with WCAX morning meteorologist Gary Sadowsky to shed some light on waking up well before dawn, and give us a perspective on the early morning routine.
What’s your daily routine like?
Alarm goes off at 2 AM. Earlier in the winter. Eat breakfast while zipping through recording of 11 PM news from the night before to get an idea of what the weather/news has in store for the morning broadcast. Minimizes any surprises. Get to work by 4 AM (should be earlier, but I’ve got the routine down so I can do it in my sleep). Look at all the model data, NWS forecast/discussion, do forecast, make the pertinent graphics, quick make-up session, and on the air at 5 AM sharp. 4 half-hour shows in a row (morning viewers are fluid – different people watch at different times, usually for about 10 minutes while they get ready for work/school). 5 weather “hits” per ½-hour show, so you never go too long without giving a forecast.
During those shows, I constantly run back to the weather center to check for updated conditions/watches/warnings, etc. and change the necessary graphics. Also check e-mail, phone messages and Facebook for viewer reports/comments and use pertinent information from viewers on the air. At 7 AM, network takes over bulk of broadcasting. We do 4-minute cut-ins at 7:25, 7:55, 8:25 and 8:55. During the off-air times between 7-9 AM, I update our website forecast, record the weather phone, Tweet, and Facebook. 9 AM – break time! I live 20 minutes away, so I go home and take a nap.
Napping is crucial when you’re on the morning shift. It gets me through the Noon broadcast. Back by 11 – 11:30, depending on the weather (sometimes earlier during winter storms . . . in fact, sometimes no break if there is something major going on). Update graphics for Noon broadcast. After Noon broadcast, check out new model data from 12Z runs. Update web forecast, etc. based on new information. Also get a few graphics as-ready-to-go-as-possible for the following morning, which saves me time the next morning. Time is of the essence in the morning. Leave about 2 PM. And that’s a work day.
Are the hours the worst part of the job? Do you eventually get used to the routine?
The hours are definitely the worst part of the job. Especially if you are not a morning person (like me). You sort of “get used” to the routine, in that you adapt to always being tired and half-conscious. That becomes part of your life.
What do you like about being a morning met?
Mornings are very dynamic. The morning met gets the ball rolling for the rest of the day. And the weather changes quickly in the morning as the sun is coming up. Also, morning newscasts are usually a little bit “lighter” in nature – the idea that you are getting people out of bed and ready to tackle their day. You can be more creative and have a little more fun with the weather in the mornings, whereas the later broadcasts are usually more serious in nature. So, I like dynamic nature of the morning broadcasts and the opportunity to be more creative.
What advice would you give to mets trying to survive working the early morning shift?
The early morning shift is totally unnatural to the human body. All you can do is make the best of it. Being a morning met is fun and fulfilling, but you have to make sure you try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour (which is very, very difficult) and to master the art of napping. Also, people in your life who are close to you are going to need to be very understanding of your situation.
Any other meteorologists out there with a few more tips and tricks to mastering mornings? Feel free to add a comment or two below.