Hey guys! My name is Sam, I'm 25, and I'm a writer based in L.A. — and I love to try new jobs, especially ones that take me outside my comfort zone.
Of course, there was only one way to find out if I was cut out for this line of work: ACTUALLY work at a TV station for a day.
1. First things first, there's a distinct difference between being a meteorologist and a weatherman.
2. Just like the Kardashians, you have to have makeup done because this is an on-camera job!
3. The hours are crazy because DUH, there's always weather happening, even in sunny SoCal.
4. Just like any other on-air position, being a weatherman means you're telling a story — not just delivering numbers.
I was under the impression that a weatherman rolls into the station in the morning (in my case, with a venti iced coffee in hand), checks the weather, and gets ready to go on the air, delivering the same type of weather news every day — the temperatures for the day, a forecast for the week, and maybe throw some traffic reports in there to spice things up. NOPE! Every day a different weather "story" needs to be told, which makes sense, because fucking DUH, the weather is different every day.
The day I was in the station, the big story was the Santa Ana winds — aka it was blustery AF — and thus, that was a large focus of Shanna's and my storytelling for the day. Basically, being a weatherman really BLOWS (OK, seeing myself out now).
5. I wasn't expecting this, but a lot happens at those desks on set that anchors sit in. They're NOT props!
I thought the desks that anyone who is on a broadcast for were just for show so that anchors didn't have to awkwardly stand there twiddling their thumbs. I WAS WRONG. There are three monitors at the desk where Shanna and the producers actually build out the graphics for the show — so in a way, the studio is LITERALLY a weatherman's office.
You need two to three hours to build out the graphics, and most (like daytime highs and the seven-day forecast) are built manually. This takes time — NBC LA reports on SEVEN different Southern California microclimates, although this is not the norm for the industry. Also, traffic is reported a little differently than weather. The story of what is happening on the roads is told as it happens, and while you can do this for weather, too, you also have to prepare prior to the newscast. Even then your work isn't done. If temperatures change during the middle of the broadcast, you need to update viewers. Yup, you're even working at your desk while the news is going on!
6. Technology is a BIG part of the job — and in more ways than you can possibly imagine.
...although that technology can be used for much sillier purposes than just telling the weather.
7. All right, let's get to the good stuff. Being on camera is...harder than it looks. Just look at what a hot mess I am.
8. And not only do you have to SAY the weather, you have to DELIVER it by moving across the screen in a visually pleasing way.
I learned that being a weatherman is sort of like being Rihanna — sometimes you'll be talking about umbrellas, you need to be comfortable in front of the camera, and there's also heavy choreography involved in your routine. I thought I could get away with just reading off some numbers from the screen, but Shanna had me moving around, pointing, and trying to add some liveliness to my presentation (normally, Shanna has an earpiece with a director, assistant director, and/or producer speaking to her during the broadcast). TV, after all, is a visual medium.
The problem was it felt like I was trying to do too many things at once — read what was onscreen, process that information, regurgitate it out as witty banter, and also move around to add some visual flair to the whole thing. For someone who is fully capable of tripping while standing still, this was a lot to ask.
9. And being in front of the green screen is confusing AF.
Going into the day, my biggest concern regarding being in front of a green screen was not wearing any green so I didn't disappear in the shot (yes, this is a thing that happens). Boy, should I have been more concerned.
Being in front of the green screen can remind you of a drunken night out with friends — you're dizzy, don't know what direction you're headed in, and know it's being captured on camera.
Why is this, you ask? Well, in addition to the actual screen, you have two monitors to the side you're working off of, AND a camera and monitor directly facing you. These screens have the media and graphics on them that aren't on the green screen, which throws you off a bit. You never really feel like you're facing the right direction when you're in front of the green screen, and consequently, you're left twisting around trying to find an elusive stance that works for you. Spoiler alert: I never found mine.
10. Also, y'all need to stop freaking out about your local meteorologist screwing up the weather or traffic. That's not really how it works, TBH!
There's a stereotype of weathermen getting the weather wrong, and then you're left wearing flip-flops in near-freezing temperatures, or have a wool sweater on when it's sunny and in the 80s outside. I asked Shanna about this trope and how she would answer to it — and she said people need to realize that meteorology is "not an exact science." Shanna said meteorologists are "just the messenger" and only are able to share what information they have (and yes, she said they too are upset when they don't get the weather right).
"We do the best we can with whatever products we have," she said, "but it's not always perfect."