A little more than 3 months ago I walked away from a 25-year TV weather career. During my final days, I posted 20 lessons I’d learned throughout my years in broadcast meteorology. In case you missed them on Facebook or LinkedIn, here is # 6. (All 20 can be found on my website’s main blog page. Scroll through the posts to see which topics interest you).
- WEATHER HYPE
There are times that the weather gets a bad rap. More specifically, the weather REPORTER gets a bad rap. It’s not just the blame of “getting it wrong” or “being paid to lie” but it’s also the accusation of “weather hype.” To be fair, there are plenty of meteorologists across the country (and not just on TV) who love to blow things out of proportion. Fear sells. A quick scan through Facebook during a hurricane shines a spotlight on it pretty easily.
I have never been told by a boss to “hype” something up. But I have been asked, “why aren’t you talking about this or that because so-and-so over at that other channel is talking about it.” There is pressure to keep up, especially when you are a young’un starting out in the business. The longer you do the job, the more confidence you acquire, and the more trust you gain, from viewers and from managers. In the early years, I was too nervous to stand up for what I believed, so there were times I went on TV and maybe “oversold” an event. In more recent years, I had supportive managers who trusted my opinion and knew that I was not going to “cry wolf” over something that wasn’t a big deal. They also knew I would raise a red flag when something needed to lead the newscast or have extra time assigned to it.
Many years ago, when TV stations realized people were watching the news because of the weather, they started putting more emphasis on it. Weather wasn’t tucked at the bottom of the newscast anymore. It was bumped up before sports, and then, additional weather was added at the beginning and end of the newscast. In the morning, I presented a forecast 4 times each half-hour. Sometimes that seemed like “overkill” to viewers (and to me!). It was especially challenging when the weather was sunny and quiet. Keep in mind, not everyone watches the news for all five hours in the morning. Most people only watch for a few minutes, and some only listen in passing. I repeated a forecast a lot so no matter what time you tuned in, you got some sort of weather report.
With more emphasis came more importance and more scrutiny. I tried not to worry about the naysayers or the ones who type, “Oh, here we go, more weather hype” on every single weather post I wrote. I did my work and let the chips fall where they did.
I should also mention that despite the bad rap weather often gets, there are times that weather is the ONLY “good” thing in a newscast. On September 11, 2001, the blue sky and lack of storms was the one thing that gave people a distraction from the terrorist attacks, if the weather was covered at all on TV stations that day. Other times I remember being on TV in the midst of tragedy: during the Columbia explosion in 2003, the shooting of Orlando police officer Debra Clayton, the Pulse massacre, and in 2020, watching our world come to a halt in a global pandemic. I had to find the balance between serious and light, severe and smiles, tragedy and celebration. Sometimes my job was bad, covering hurricanes and tornadoes, but sometimes I got to be the only bright light in an otherwise dark day.
➡️ “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu