• Why All Broadcast Meteorologists Should Have A ‘Plan B’

    As much as we try we can’t predict the future, especially when it comes to our careers. While you are still in college, you should take some time to put together a plan for when things don’t go as expected.

    We’re not all living the dream. For some broadcast meteorologists, recent graduates discover that either they don’t like the job as much as they thought they would, or that the job doesn’t like them. Some meteorologists have unrealistic expectations of what the job will pay, or what the hours or work might be like. Others find that no matter how many tapes they send out to even the smallest of stations, the phone will just not ring.

    When I graduated college, I didn’t have a Plan B. I was six months out of school, working in retail and my college loans were coming due. I had sent out dozens of tapes with little more than a ‘no thanks’ in return. My Plan B ended up being me going back to college to get a broadcasting degree. Three semesters later, I was able to land my first broadcast meteorology gig, which is actually at the same station I’m at today, thirteen years later.

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  • Why Your Campus TV Club Is Not Going To Cut It

    College campuses are busy again and like every Autumn, the campus television stations are getting ready for another semester. If you are a student meteorologist interested in a career in broadcasting, these campus stations are your best bet to get the practice you need to be good enough to land that first job. Some campus stations are run by college broadcasting or journalism department and can give students a real taste of live television news. Other campus stations are student led free-for-alls that lack any kind of structure or leadership. These are in the majority. While TV clubs are a lot of fun, usually they are not going to help you get as good as you need before you graduate.

    If you are serious about your future in broadcast meteorology, you need to take a hard look at what kind of experience you are planning to get this semester. Here are a few important things to consider and look for:

    Live daily newscasts are better than taped weather cut-ins. Does your campus television station offer live daily newscasts? Many campus stations tape their newscasts or only offer cut-ins for weather. It’s important to be part of a full newscast to learn anchor chat and the ability to work with others. If you are only getting a minute or two per weathercast, you are missing out on a full news show experience. Some campus stations only air newscasts once or twice a week. If its not a daily newscast, and you are not the only broadcast meteorologist in the program, there is no way you’ll get enough shows to get to where you want with your skill.

    Campus TV clubs usually don’t sport the gear you need. You are going to want a chroma-key wall, a news set and some good lighting. Chances are your résumé tape material will come from the shows you do on your college television station. If the set or lighting looks like it came from the high school A/V club, then you are probably not helping your chances. You also need a weather computer that provides live satellite and radar data, and the ability to draw your own surface maps. Anything less and you might as well be doing the weather from your bedroom webcam. Not only are theses computers great to have for your shows, but they also give your résumé a huge boost if you know how to use them. Find a college that is serious about putting out high-quality newscasts.

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  • My Summer as a Broadcast Meteorology Intern – Alex Avalos

    Alex Avalos has been busy this summer. Not only has he been building a blog, and active on Twitter, but he’s also doing a summer internship at a local station in Connecticut. I thought it would be interesting to ask him a few questions to get his perspective on what its like to be a broadcast meteorology intern.

    Where are you interning this summer, and what’s your normal day like?

    I intern at News 8 (WTNH) in New Haven, Connecticut.  Each Monday morning, I start my day around 1:30 AM, to get ready for the hour long commute to New Haven in order to start my shift at 4:00 AM.  I usually arrive at the station around 3:40 AM each Monday morning, and Meteorologist Gil Simmons (whom I intern for) is not far behind.

    When he gets to the station, we debrief on the weather for the current day, have a look at the models, stability indices, verticals data, etc.  The only problem with interning during the very early morning shift is the need to get things done as quickly, yet efficiently as possible.  Each morning, I will research some other forecasting materials which he will incorporate into his morning show (for example, pollen index, Long Island Sound temperatures, rainfall totals from a storm, etc.), and depending on the hustle to prepare for the morning show, I will plug some of the data into the weather graphics computer for Gil.

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  • Look To Alumni For a Helping Hand

    Earlier this week I updated the Lyndon State Alumni section on Broadcastmet.com. With the help of Tim Lewis, co-chair of the Electronic Journalism Arts program at Lyndon State College, I was able to track down 46 broadcast meteorologists. I attached links to their local television news profiles, and their Twitter accounts where I could find them. I think its interesting to look back and see how past graduates have done and hopefully your meteorology program keeps track of alumni as well. Alumni are be a valuable resource.

    With social media, we are now connected more than ever, and a network of alumni can be a great asset for looking for job opportunities or just asking for some advice. Every  broadcast meteorologist likely had some help from someone who has come before them. I’ve found that most veteran mets are usually willing to offer some assistance to the new broadcasters coming up the pipe.

    A broadcast meteorology program with a long list of successful alumni will not guarantee you a good job after college, and knowing someone who works somewhere doesn’t always get you an ‘in’. It will always come down to whats on your resume tape, but having a strong network of alumni who are willing to point you in the right direction can be just the edge you need.

    If you are looking into going to school for broadcast meteorology, ask to see a list of where past broadcast mets have gotten jobs. Knowing that the program is producing meteorologists that are currently working in the field and doing well is a good sign. If you have a favorite local tv met, go online and check out their biography to see where they went to college. You’ll usually find that alumni are the best advocates for the programs they graduated from.

    Alumni have been there. They’ve taken the classes, eaten the dining hall food, and know what you are going through. They also graduated, got a job and moved on. Eventually you’ll be doing the same. Look to alumni when you are having a tough time and need some objective advice. Just be sure to pay it back to someone else when you are the one with the nice broadcast meteorology job.

  • The Only Way Out Is Through – Getting Out Of A Broadcast Rut

    We all strive to improve, no matter how long we’ve been broadcast meteorologists. There is always something we can improve on and maybe do better. When you are starting out, that list of things to work on can feel pretty long, and there will often be times when you don’t feel like this is normal. We all get stuck in ruts, and usually the only way out is through.

    Maybe you are stuck on a crutch word, or talking a little too fast. Maybe you get hung up on saying the same things show after show, or completely blanking out when it comes time to chat with the anchors. Ruts seem to drag you down, and take the rest of the show with it. Here are a couple of ideas to help you survive your next rut, and break on through (to the other side).

    Recognize you are in a rut. Often ruts can go on for weeks without you even knowing. Watch your shows, and be aware of what you are doing. Try to pick up on things you could do better, but also give yourself some credit with how far you’ve come so far.

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  • From Imitation to Creation – Being Your Best on Camera

    Stephen King wrote in his memoir that when he was learning to write stories as a kid, imitation preceded creation. He would often take stories and characters he was familiar with and work them into works of his own. He was still in grade school at the time, but his mother would encourage him to create stories and characters of his own. As he developed his skill, he began drawing on his own experiences and his world to create his best selling works today.

    I often see similar development patterns in early broadcast meteorologists. They come into class, having grown up with watching a certain meteorologist for years and years, and broadcasting in a style that is not truly them. They might be really technical, or really goofy, or get hung up on certain words or phases. I’ll ask a student where they are from, and who they grew up watching, and you can see someone else’s on-air presence being mimicked by the student. It’s true that imitation often precedes creation when you are starting out. That is fine, but I push students to discover their own broadcast style.

    We usually need the courage of seeing someone else do it before us. It’s usually what inspires us to get up and do it in the first place. A broadcast meteorologist will eventually find more success in what they do when they figure out who they are as broadcasters. When they start listening to that voice, they become much more authentic and effective as broadcasters. Stephen King would have never become the writer he is today if he had continued to write stories based on what was already out there. Instead, he was challenged to write from within, and he eventually found his own voice.

    We’ll still have a fondness for broadcast mets we grew up with, and who are still great at what they do. We can learn a lot by watching them and picking up on what they do well. The best broadcast meteorologist you can be is the one who is closest to who you are in real life. That is the person viewers are going to want to get their forecast from.

  • 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.