• Practice – Why You Can’t Cram to be a Broadcast Meteorologist

    Becoming an effective broadcast meteorologist is like training to run a marathon. If you rolled out of bed one day and tried to run 26.2 miles, you probably wouldn’t make it too far. Its the same way with broadcast meteorology. It takes practice. If you want to become a good broadcast met with a great resume tape, you need to be able to work at it.

    You’ll probably be pretty terrible at first, and that’s okay. What is important is that you pick the right college program to put yourself in a position to succeed. Know exactly what the broadcasting program offers meteorologists ahead of time, so that you don’t get two years into a four year program that is not going to help get you there. Don’t go to a school to learn how to swim if they don’t have a pool (I felt like Dr. Phil right there).

    Here are a few things you should look for in a good broadcast meteorology program:

    Live, daily newscasts – You should be part of a news team that does live broadcasts everyday. You’ll want to have anchors to chat with, and photojournalists to take you outside when the weather gets bad. It has to be every day because you want to get in as many shows as possible, and you’ll likely have to spread it out among the other mets. And you’ll want the shows to be live because there is a big psychological difference between live and taped TV. You don’t want to have to work through those nerves at your first real job.

    Broadcast classes for meteorologists – Colleges offer classes for public speaking, and classes for journalism, but what mets really need is a performance class with other mets. Classes ought to be taught by someone who has some previous broadcast weather experience, and gives you the opportunity to get in front of the chroma-key wall every week. In the classroom environment, you get to make those early mistakes away from live television with a instructor who can help you get better.

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  • The Curse of Knowledge – Don’t Forget Your Audience

    Our friends over at the National Weather Service in Burlington sent us over a weather clip earlier this week and “Triple-Dog-Dared” us to try and re-create it on the air. Check out the video from Valparasio University:

     

     

    Now clearly its a goof, and the met actually does a really nice job pulling it off. Occasionally I see rookie broadcast meteorologists starting to talk like a NWS discussion on-air, oddly similar to the clip. Its likely a force of habit, spending afternoon in the campus meteorology office preparing the daily forecast, but when you step in front of the chroma-key wall, your vocabulary needs to change a little.

     

    In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Other’s Die, Chip and Dan Heath call it the ‘Curse of Knowledge’. Its when we know more than our audience, and end up losing them in the way we deliver our message. In the beginning we tend to forget who we’re talking to, and that the choice of our vocabulary needs to be relative to the people who are watching us. Its not about talking down to your viewers, but rather explaining complicated concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.

     

    Its important to know your audience, and every market is different. In severe weather markets, where lives are on the line during tornado outbreaks, a higher level of meteorological detail is certainly acceptable and expected. But if I think if you ask the average viewer in the average market, they would have a tough time describing what an occluded front or even the jet stream had to do with the weather. Many news directors outlaw surface maps from weathercasts completely.

     

    So it just takes some gentle reminding and a little conditioning to help new broadcast meteorologists learn a new way to convey their forecasts. The goal is for the viewer to walk away with a clear understanding of your forecast.

     

  • Walk to Run – Why You Need Broadcasting Classes in College to Get Better

    Confidence is a big part of learning to be a broadcast meteorologist. Ad-libbing in front of a chroma-key wall for three minutes on live television is not an easy thing to do. Taking many small steps to get yourself there, rather than one giant leap builds a lot more confidence, and increases the likelihood that you’ll continue to develop and grow. The best place to build that confidence is in broadcast classes especially geared for meteorologists.

    Just a quick search of YouTube will bring up dozens of campus TV meteorologists who were allowed to go on live television before they were ready. They crashed and burned before they even had a chance to get started. We’ve all had terrible shows we’d never want to relive, but early on its hard to have the confidence in yourself to wake up and do it again the next day.

    The best way to learn is to ‘do’, and live college television news is essential. When you are starting out though, the ‘doing’ part should be in a classroom environment with an instructor and the safety of knowing that what you do is not going to end up on YouTube. Classes help build the students confidence so that not only are they ready for live TV, they’ll be ready to bounce back when something goes wrong.

    At Lyndon State College where I teach, we are lucky enough to have a separate studio with chroma-key and a WSI weather computer, away from the busy campus television studio. New students are encouraged to make mistakes and to try things out there, gaining the confidence they’ll need for live television. Our broadcast performance classes for meteorologists are separate from the news journalists because they are entirely different skills and should be handled separately. In our first few weeks we spend time moving around the wall, and building ad-lib skills, all within the privacy of our classroom. By November, they are usually ready for their first live broadcasts. No one moves on to live campus television who is not ready to do so.

    We watch a lot of broadcasts and go over a lot of theory, but at the end of the day, its the practice in front of the wall that makes students better. Starting each student off right gives them the best chance of success at becoming a broadcast meteorologist, and I believe that each met deserves to have that opportunity.

    What does your program help do to help students succeed? Please share your stories in the comments below.

  • The Juice is Worth the Squeeze

    It’s a tough degree to get. Entry-level jobs are hard to snag. The hours cut you off from the rest of the world, and the pay isn’t that great, especially in the first few years. I talk a lot about some of the harsh realities of broadcast meteorology, but there is one other thing I’d like people to know.

    I love my job. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always perfect, but at the end of the day I’m truly happy to do what I do. I feel like I have a great spot at a top-notch station in a perfect part of the county. I know many other broadcast mets feel the same way. They worked hard to get where they are, they are very good at what they do and in return, they have a great job that they love.

    I’ve talked to many high school students who dream of a career in broadcast meteorology, but don’t understand the work involved that it takes to get there. I’ve talked to many college students in the middle of their meteorology degrees who are ready to give up, but don’t realize how far they have come and how close they are to achieving their goal. And I’ve talked to many recent grads who are frustrated by how crowded the job market is, but don’t believe that we’ve all been there, and that things usually have a way of working out.

    It’s a battle, but it’s been worth it. Believe me, if I can do it, you probably can too. Here are a few tips for success:

    • Know what to expect – Find out what you need to do to get the results you are looking for. Whether its a hard class in college, or learning how to make a great resume tape, seek out the people who have the answers, and listen to them.
    • Don’t be too hard on yourself – You’ll hit tough times, but if this was easy, everyone would be doing it. Keep the big picture in mind and keep up with the little things every day to help get you there.
    • Be humble and flexible – Know that you don’t know. Things might seem a certain way today, but a subtle shift in what you do, or how you are thinking about something can change the way it looks tomorrow.
    Are you a broadcast met who loves their job? Please let us know in the comments below. It would be great to hear from you.