A few weeks ago I walked away from 25 years in TV weather. During my final 20 days of work, I shared on social media some of the lessons I’d learned throughout my career in broadcasting. If you missed them on Facebook, I’m posting them here on my blog.
Today’s combines 2 topics that are greatly misunderstood about TV weather: 1) Broadcast Meteorologists do not read from a script and 2) there is no such thing as a “normal” schedule in TV.
Keep an eye on your inbox for other lessons on my list in the days that follow. If you haven’t signed up for email updates yet, you can do so under “contact” at the top of this page.
- SCRIPTS and AD-LIBBING
Before I switched from news to weather I wrote scripts and then read them on radio or TV. Transitioning into weather, I quickly discovered that weather anchors do not use scripts. Everything said on TV is ad-libbed. That doesn’t mean I “made up” the forecast (despite the running joke that meteorologists get paid to lie). By the time you saw me on TV at 4:30 AM, I’d already been at work for hours pouring over weather data and constructing the day’s forecast. I didn’t have my words memorized. When I went on TV, I just talked about what I knew. I had already decided on my forecast. I’d made all the forecast graphics. I’d probably recorded weather forecasts for radio stations and written a few things for the web and social media.
Because I wasn’t reading anything, sometimes I got tongue-tied. Sometimes I used incorrect grammar. Sometimes I forgot what I was going to say next. Sometimes I said “east” when I meant “west.” Almost everything in TV news is live, not recorded. On rare occasions, we recorded a “tease” or a “promotion” video to air in the future, but every newscast you see is in real-time.
This is why you see some of the best (or worst?) bloopers from local newscasts. I don’t have too many (since thankfully YouTube didn’t exist when I started working in news), but I did manage to say “bitch clouds” many years ago while trying to say “big patch of clouds.” Another time I said “potty showers” instead of “spotty showers,” and the best part was I didn’t even know I did it! My co-anchor told me later and I refused to believe her until I watched the recording back!
There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of live TV knowing you can’t take anything back, but it was definitely easier to be a rookie in a time when your words didn’t live on the internet forever.
➡️ “I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.” – Marcus Cicero
There is no such thing as a “normal” schedule in TV news. If you work on-air, you either work early morning, late at night, or on weekends. On rare occasions, there is a “day shift” meteorologist (I had this schedule for 3 years back when WESH started a 4 PM newscast). But the day shift worker is often the swing shifter, covering both when the morning meteorologist is off and when the evening meteorologist is off.
The schedule is decided by the managers, not the employee, and it’s not always based on the employee’s top choice. Managers place us in the spots they want us and on the teams they believe we will be most successful. I worked weekends for 7 years in Michigan. My “weekend” was on Monday and Tuesday. In 2002, I was hired to do mornings at WESH but was moved to a new position 4 different times. I liked the work and I liked the station, so I embraced each change. I tried to see the moves as a new challenge and a new opportunity to grow and learn. I was back on the morning shift for 11 years when I decided I’d had enough. While I loved the work, waking up at 2 AM every day was just not sustainable for that long (for me).
People asked if I’d ever get “promoted” to the evening shift. I never considered working evenings a promotion. In fact, a case could be made that more people watch TV news in the morning than at night. Every shift has pros and cons. If you work mornings, you wake up in the middle of the night. If you work nights, you miss out on dinner at home and evening events with your family and friends. There really isn’t an “ideal” schedule if you work on-air. I knew that going in, and made it work for 25 years. As tough as it was to wake up in the middle of the night, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of a morning team. I liked knowing people watched morning news to get a weather forecast, and I’d be the one to help them start their day. The biggest benefit of the morning shift was being home in the afternoons and evenings with my kids.
➡️ “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin
➡️ “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates