The WeatherWatcher Program
What Is It? Student-produced weather forecasts on RU-tv, Rutgers-New Brunswick's campus cable television network.
So You Wanna Be a TV Star About 25 meteorology students from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences participate in WeatherWatcher, producing two forecasts each day on weekdays, one a day on weekends. Each segment is about two-and-a-half minutes long. The forecasts are broadcast throughout the day on the Rutgers Preview Channel on RU-tv.
Teamworkand Technology An on-air anchor and a behind-the-scenes producer team up to produce each segment from a basement studio in Waller Hall on the Douglass Campus. With the help of an in-studio computer, the on-air personalities prepare for their broadcasts by gathering data from a variety of sources, including the National Weather Service and the Rutgers Weather Center, drawing on the meteorological know-how they are gleaning from their studies. To get the genuine effect of a professional weather forecast, the student forecasters stand in front of a "green screen" (chroma-key, in insider's jargon) and watch themselves deliver the forecast on three monitors. Through the magic of technology, the end result looks like a bonafide TV weather broadcast, complete with the slick graphics.
Street Cred Yep, students get their weather news from the program. "I'll be walking with my girlfriend," says lead producer Bryan Bachman, "or at the dining hall, and someone will come up and say, 'I saw you on TV-you're the Weather Guy, right?' "
Organization, Leadership, and a Can-Do Attitude That's what it takes to make WeatherWatcher a reality, says senior Rachel Christensen, formerly the lead producer for WeatherWatcher. You've got to wrangle the schedules of a score of volunteers and otherwise ensure the cameras are working, the studio is up and running, and everything is ready for the day's forecasts, says Christensen, now the public service and promotions manager for RU-tv.
He Made It Happen Jim Nichols, a 2004 graduate of Cook College, pretty much got the program off the ground. When he got to Rutgers as a would-be weather guy, he decided two programs, the meteorology department and the RU-tv television network, should get together. If Rutgers was already training budding meteorologists, he reasoned, why not have them forecasting the weather on the tube? Five years after WeatherWatcher's debut, the program is thriving-a fixture on RU-tv.
WeatherWatcher Alums Are Everywhere-Even Mountaintops WeatherWatcher alums can be seen delivering forecasts on TV stations from Boston to New York City and beyond. Nichols, after a stint as the chief meteorologist for two TV stations in Sioux City, Iowa, appears on-air in Philadelphia as a freelance meteorologist for the city's Fox affiliate. Others work in areas as diverse as energy trading and global climate change-and even as weather observers atop mountain peaks.
Real-World Career Prep "Coming out of the gate, you hit the ground running," says Nichols. "That puts you monstrously ahead of other people." Others agree. Robert Reale, a senior who wants to be an on-air weather guy, says he's gained plenty of confidence from appearing on WeatherWatcher. "It all just comes more naturally to me," he says. "I'm more energetic, I'm more personable, and it's fun now. The nervousness is all gone."
Tough Crowd "New Jersey is not an easy audience," says Nichols. "They get thrown right into the fray."
The Love As Bachman says, "I love getting up there and talking about the weather. It's really what I have a passion for."