If you talk to a broadcast meteorologist, they’ll probably tell you that they were interested in weather at a very early age. It grabs us, and we’re hooked for life. In high school, we take a special interest in earth science, mathematics and computer science. What you don’t see as much is a pursuit in skills on the broadcasting side. Maybe students don’t know right away that they want to work in television, perhaps they don’t realize the opportunities they have to build those skills, or maybe its just scary.
It was scary for me. Not only did I wait till college to get into broadcasting, I waited till senior year. By then, there just wasn’t enough time to get myself to a level of comfort that had me ready for a local television job. I went back to college and picked up a second degree in broadcasting, and even after that nerves still got the best of me for the first few months of my first broadcast meteorology job.
I know I’m not alone. I see students all the time that battle with nerves, first in the classroom, and then on live campus television. Its something that can take a while to stamp out, and leads to a whole host of other problems. You can work on talking slower, or stop fidgeting with your hands, or trying to smile more, but it likely all stems from a lack of being comfortable and confident. It’s also a challenge to teach out of a student because it’s usually something that just takes time. Just like jumping in a pool of cold water, it just takes time to get used to, and there is not a lot else you can do to speed up the process.
If you are in high school, now is the time to start building your confidence. The students who get started sooner end up coming to college better equipped for the opportunities they will find there. I spoke with a couple of Lyndon State College alumni who to me appeared confident early in the process, to see what they did before college that made fighting the fear a bit easier.
Matt DiPirro, meteorologist at KSWO in Lawton, Oklahoma got involved in his local community access tv station early in high school. “I showed interest in being on air and they allowed me to gain experience in front of the camera doing live shots during winter storms and also anchoring the storm center cut-ins. I started becoming involved at this station around my freshman or sophomore year of high school. If I did not have that experience I might not have ever tried it out so I would always suggest becoming involved in anything prior to school.”
Brandon Wholey, who is now the chief meteorologist at KRNV in Reno, Nevada, also sought out opportunities in high school. “Late in my high school years, I did a taped weathercast (from PowerPoint graphics) that appeared on Fridays during the video announcements. To be honest, I believe I have always been really confident in front of the camera doing weather because I had wanted to do this profession since 8th grade. I took some public speaking classes and did a play, but I think just knowing what I was good at and knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, is what came through as confidence on the air.”
Not all of us have access to studio equipment in high school, but there are so many other things you can do to build that level of confidence. It all starts by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If it’s a little scary, you are probably headed in the right direction. Try acting or singing in a play, or being in a band or chorus. Get out in front of people. Play a sport. Get involved with a speaking or debate club. Whatever you do, make it fun.
Broadcasting and meteorology involve an interesting mix of skills. The students who develop both sides equally will be the ones who do the best. Just like you wouldn’t want a meteorologist who knew nothing about weather, most viewers aren’t interested in a broadcaster who can’t communicate ideas in a clear and interesting way. If you are in high school now and interested in broadcast meteorology, start building those skills now.