32nd Conference on Broadcast Meteorology/31st Conference on Radar Meteorology/Fifth Conference on Coastal Atmospheric and Oceanic Prediction and Processes

Monday, 11 August 2003: 1:14 PM
The WeatherWatcher Program at Rutgers: Creating the Next Generation of “Station Scientists”
James F. Nichols, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
In an increasingly competitive environment for information gathering, it is important that the people conveying information to the public have a strong background in the subject they are reporting. Meteorologists are often the only men and women in a newsroom that have a science background. It is their scientific background that can not only promote accurate forecasting, but also serve as a “Station Scientist,” by having reasonable knowledge of whatever science stories newsrooms choose to pursue.

Students at Rutgers University have noticed the increasing need of scientists who must be communications savvy, and have taken action. “WeatherWatcher” is a student-run partnership between the Rutgers University Television (RU-TV) Network and the Rutgers Meteorology program, which features undergraduate meteorology majors conducting one-minute televised weather forecasts to air each hour to an academic community of 13,000 people. “WeatherWatcher” sets itself apart from other programs, by focusing efforts on the intense study of Meteorology and related sciences, combined with non-credit, volunteer participation in television forecasting. With 26 volunteer undergraduate meteorologists on staff, “WeatherWatcher” is working towards bridging the gap between highly sophisticated researchers and the general public. “WeatherWatcher” is designed to break new ground in creating “Station Scientists” by also supporting storm coverage, science coverage, and extended weather specials. With a majority of “WeatherWatcher” members seeking employment outside the media, “WeatherWatcher” serves to train future government, academic, and private sector researchers how to effectively communicate their science. “WeatherWatcher” is an academic effort that thrives on student involvement and looks to the future of public forecasting outside of a classroom setting.

This presentation will give insight on how students were able to build such a program in a time of economic distress, as well as how both scientists and media specialists were brought to see the importance of such a project. The process of how “WeatherWatcher” looks to create “Station Scientists,” as well as build on the communications ability of research oriented students will be addressed. In addition, we will look at local reaction, both in academia and publicly, on how “WeatherWatcher” benefits both students and the community at large.

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