Trading places: the big weathercaster switch of 1980

5 08 2010

This spring, veteran Washington weathercaster Bob Ryan moved from Channel 4 (WRC-TV) to Channel 7 (WJLA-TV).  The move might have seemed like a bombshell to D.C. viewers: after all, Ryan had been at WRC for a full three decades. But his arrival in D.C. back in 1980 was a major event of its own, with implications for both local and national weathercasting. Ryan came onto the Washington scene as part of an unusual job switch with none other than Willard Scott, who was a fixture in the D.C. media world before gaining national fame on NBC’s “Today” show. I’ve blogged about the Scott-Ryan switcheroo here, at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.


The air, and the airwaves, heat up

4 08 2010

Last winter, as unprecedented snowfall buried the mid-Atlantic states and Britain shivered through its worst winter in 30 years, journalists began to take a closer look at how TV weather covers, or doesn’t cover, climate change. That flurry of coverage faded by spring. Now, with a ten-minute segment that aired on 17 July, the “Dateline” series on Australia’s SBS network has joined the fray—just as both Moscow and Washington are enduring their hottest summers ever recorded, with New York not far behind.

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It’s out!

15 06 2010

Weather on the Air hits the streets today.  It’s available directly from the American Meteorological Society; booksellers and wholesale distributors can contact The University of Chicago Press.

Hats off to all the weathercasters who made this book possible by simply doing what they do each day. This one’s for you!

Who else—but the weatherman?

25 03 2010

A few months ago, a friend of mine discovered an intriguing animation package from the 1950s, posted on YouTube by way of Bedazzled.

Still from 1950s weatherman cartoonIt’s a series of clips, each about 25 seconds long, that describe various types of weather conditions in general terms: “overcast and warmer,” “fair with increasing clouds,” “snow and cold,” etc.

Each clip is accompanied by a variation of the series’ insanely catchy theme song, which always ends with the question, “Who else—but the weatherman?”

The idea was apparently for local TV stations to buy the full set of clips, then pick a weather-apropos segment each day to insert into their programming, either on newscasts (perhaps in lieu of an actual weatherperson?) or at other times of the day. I wondered about the clips’ heritage until today, when I found a short post about the clips on Turns out they were produced around 1956–57 by a Miami-based animation studio, Soundac, that also produced the first color cartoon for TV. The style is unmistakably Cartoon Modern, which was omnipresent on early TV ads.

That infectious theme song keeps pulling me back, but I also love the weatherman himself—a triangular figure with umbrella in hand and anemometer/wind vane on his head—and the riot of typographic styles. Well worth a peek.

Book outlook: mostly sunny

21 03 2010

Weather on the Air is in the home stretch. The book will be laid out in the next month and will go to press later this spring. It’ll debut in June at the American Meteorological Society’s 38th Conference on Broadcast Meteorology in Miami Beach. Stay tuned!