WeatherWatcher broadens program with new equipment
What began in a closet-sized room more than 10 years ago with a camera pointed at a chalkboard has evolved into a media-based weather-reporting service with high-definition camera equipment.
Meteorologist Jim Nichols founded RU-tv’s WeatherWatcher in 2002 and held the reports at Walter Hall on the Cook/Douglass campus.
They now forecast three times a day on weekdays and twice on the weekends on RU-tv Network Channel 6, broadcast from Perry Hall on Cook/Douglass campus, said Scott Sincoff, associate producer at WeatherWatcher.
Sincoff, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, said the station also does weather forecasts on WRSU-FM News Hour and has a presence on “Wake Up Rutgers,” RU-tv’s live morning show.
Beginning this semester, WeatherWatcher has received brand new equipment from RU-tv, such as a high-definition camera, a reflective grey screen to improve picture quality on air and a tricaster system for recording, Sincoff said.
“It’s really top-notch technology,” he said. “The camera comes with green ultraviolet light. Everything is clean, crisp without any halos around the head.”
Sincoff, who began working at WeatherWatcher as a first-year student in 2009, said he started as a member of the WeatherWatcher Living-Learning Community on the first floor of Perry Hall, which currently holds 14 first-year students learning broadcast meteorology.
John McCarty, lead producer at WeatherWatcher, said he also made his way into WeatherWatcher through the Living-Learning community, which helped him build networks with other students studying meteorology and gain exposure in the field of broadcast.
“I am very happy I did it,” said McCarty, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior. “It’s really hard to forecast, being put in that position on camera, but I had a very positive experience.”
He said the program includes forecasters, who prepare graphics and go on air, as well as technical assistants, who look after the recording and airing of the broadcasts.
Forecasters currently work on PowerPoint slides, but the University is negotiating with Weather Systems International, a supplier of advanced weather systems for meteorological institutions, to provide WeatherWatcher with a new graphics system that will allow them to produce graphics similar to those by major news outlets, McCarty said.
The team faced significant challenges when it provided forecasts and updates during Hurricane Sandy last year, Sincoff said. The program produced broadcasts every three hours, and updated their social media constantly for warnings.
“I was temporarily in charge at the time of Sandy, and it was crazy to manage everything,” he said. “Social media was blasting and we were updating even in the middle of the night, making graphics and discussing with meteorologists.”
Tyler Case, the manager of WeatherWatcher, said he learned a great deal in times like Hurricane Sandy and snowstorms.
“Nothing excited me more than waiting till 3 in the morning to broadcast updates,” said Case, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior. “I am from California, where it hardly snows, so even waiting was exciting for me.”
Sincoff said working at WeatherWatcher taught him how to prepare broadcasts, be comfortable on-air and communicate a scientific message to the public in a manner everyone can understand. Most importantly, the job prepared for him for the real world and working under intense pressure.
The program currently has nearly 45 students and 16 others in the Living-Learning Community, he said. These students, many of whom are meteorology majors, are engaged in not only learning meteorology broadcasting, but also in interactive discussions with other weather watchers.
Case said WeatherWatcher is a very close-knit group where everyone knows each other and is a great resource to discuss meteorology. He believes Rutgers is the only institution that could have provided him with such a unique opportunity.
“It’s been an experience of a lifetime,” Case said. “Not many students can graduate from a four-year program in a university and still say they have four years of broadcasting experience.”