FAQ

These are the most common questions I have received over the decades, and will hopefully your questions as well. If you don’t see a question that you would like posted here, please email me here with your suggested question(s).

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• How did your interest in meteorology begin?

The story is best told in Chapter 1 of my book, The Extra Mile (available on Amazon.com here). In short, my parents noticed my sudden unusual interest in the sky and anything that had to do with weather after an approaching thunderstorm piqued my attention. I was three years old at the time, so I don’t remember that particular event (my parents told me and others that story all the time when I was growing up). There wasn’t a single time in my memory that I didn’t love watching and predicting the weather! I don’t say lightly that this extremely early interest in weather was a wonderful gift from God. I knew very early on what I wanted to pursue in life.

• Were you ever afraid of any type of weather?

Yes. As a young boy, and even in my young teenage years, I hated thunderstorms, especially the ones that arrived in the middle of the night without warning. I think the problem stemmed from horror novels that were often et in scenes where thunderstorms raged. That eased when I took the time to study thunderstorms and how they work, essentially taking the mystery of of them. I also like to focus other young children with the same fear (tonitrophobia) on the wonderful benefits of a thunderstorm, that is, how it “fertilizes” their favorite fruits and veggies through a process called nitrogen fixation.

• I’m interested in weather as a possible career. What should I do to prepare?

If you are in middle school or high school, there is a LOT you can do! First, excel as best as you are able in the math and science disciplines. Math is particularly important as there is a ton of math needed to understand the atmosphere in college. If you have the option, enroll in AP classes in any math course in which you are able… especially pre-Calculus and Calculus! It will help you in your college years more than you know. If your focus is broadcast meteorology, get involved in things that will help you develop as a communicator: debate team, high school media (print and broadcast cable or in-house cable), drama team. When I was in high school (New Bedford High School, Massachusetts), we had 4,000 students. I had a captive audience when I volunteered to do the morning announcements AND a weather forecast to all the homerooms via our PA system at 7:45 a.m. every school day. Get creative! You’re likely to find many school administrators ready to open doors to a self-starter.

• What is the most important advice you give to students who want to pursue a career in broadcast meteorology?

Two things come to mind, actually, and they both have equal weight in my mind. The first is that unless you have a rich uncle who owns a conglomerate of television stations, your first job in television weather will not be in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, or any other large television market. It will be in a very small market like Fargo, Erie, Utica, Tupelo, Durango, or many other small markets across America. I have coached every single intern I ever had working with me to apply for every single opening possible regardless of where it is. As a college graduate, you cannot afford to be picky as to where you will make your grand entry into the business. If you do, you will likely never find that first TV job. I’ve seen many graduates not land that first TV job for months. However discouraging, be persistent and committed. In time, you will find the right news director who likes your work and wants to bring you onto their team. The second thing is that the television news business is a 24/7/365 operation. In all probability, you’ll be working weekday early mornings (waking well before the sunrises), or weekends, or both. If you end up moving to weekday prime time, you have to remember that your work day won’t end until between 11 p.m. and midnight. There really isn’t any such thing as a 9-to-5 job in broadcast weather. Also remember that weather is happening on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July, too. Early in your career, expect to work these Holidays for those meteorologists that have developed a long tenure and have seniority.

• What was your first commercial TV weather job?

I was one of the fortunate ones. After applying to every opening that was advertised during the spring semester of my senior year in college, I received a phone interview from Bob Jackson, the news director for WMT-TV-2 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the dorm floor phone. Not long after, the station flew me out to Cedar Rapids for a formal interview. I’ll remember that day as clear as it was yesterday since it was the day President Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after a lunch speech. That was Monday, March 30, 1981. I was offered the weekend weather job which included three weekdays doing the noon weather segments. My starting salary was $16,000/yr. Committed to a simple, disciplined lifestyle, I made ends meet. Expect the same for your first few years in the media business, but if you are disciplined, you can do it and have fun in that first job.

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