When You’re Not A Meteorologist, But Have To Play One On TV

It’s not uncommon for a broadcast meteorologist to be asked to do some reporting on the side. Most weekends mets do some sort of news during the work week, even if they come out of college without the skills to do so. But what happens when a reporter or producer is asked to do weather? It happens, and often results in a crash course in chroma-key and cold fronts. Its can be an intimidating experience, but in the right situations it can open the door to a whole new side of local television news.

Here’s what you can do to get up to speed as quickly as possible, and then build on that if you plan to keep it going.
  1. Watch as much weather coverage in your area as possible. DVR as many weathercasts as you can in a day, and just live, eat and breathe it. The quickest way
    to learn the local weather is to watch others do it. You can read books, and that’s great, but it takes time and it can be hard to apply. Watch as many stations, as many shows as you can every day. That should not only help you learn the weather, but also the vocabulary and the flow of a daily weathercast. 
  2. Learn as much as you can. Instead of learning about the basics of weather (like the Weather for Dummies book), spend more time learning about weather forecasting. Look at forecast models, ask the meteorologists there how they put a forecast together. Read the National Weather Service forecast discussions for your area. The more you understand what is going on with the weather in your area, and how its going to change, the more comfortable you are going to be talking about it. You will need to learn the basics, and if you continue as a broadcast meteorologist, you’ll want to go back and cover all of your Weather 101.
  3. Get as much practice as you can.When the studio is not in use, try and get in there and just play around. Its not easy to ad-lib, point on a green wall, and know all the weather right away. I usually spend about two years with my students from the first time they get on camera till the time they graduate. I can try and teach them everything in the world, but the bottom line is that it just takes time for most. If you have on camera experience as a reporter of anchor, you’re already one step ahead of the game. If you hang in there and work at enough, you’ll get more comfortable, and your shows will get better.

    500 mb geopotential height forecast by the Uni...

    Image via Wikipedia

  4. Check out the correspondent’s courses online. Schools like Penn State and Mississippi State offer good programs for broadcast journalists who are looking to get some meteorology experience. If you are looking to do something like this long-term, you’ll need some sort of certification to be competitive for open jobs. You can take all the classes online, and many students go on to great careers in broadcast meteorology.

There is no substitute for a degreed, experienced broadcast meteorologist, but in the world of local television news, strange things happen. Sometimes a news director will ask a reporter to fill-in in a pinch, and other times its about a popular on-air talent getting a push into more air time. The smaller the market, the more hats you’ll likely wear. The more skills you have in your backpack, the more appealing you’ll be as you move up the market ladder. Broadcast meteorology can also be a lot of fun.

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