October 6, 2017
Paths Through Science highlights the many diverse paths AGU’s scientists have charted across the disciplines within Earth and space science through interviews with professionals in government, academia, industry, and non-profit sectors.
Our October Paths Through Science profile is Ted McInerney, a broadcast meteorologist at WMTW News 8, serving Maine and New Hampshire. Today, On the Job features excerpts from his profile. You can read the rest of his profile and view others by visiting our Paths Through Science page.
What inspired you to become a meteorologist?
I actually loved maps, looking at an atlas and a globe, and just learning about new places, and what better way to see maps on TV but the Weather Channel. Then I started to realize that the weather is what’s happening right now, it’s always the latest thing going on, there’s always something about weather going on, there’s always a cool storm going on, so I literally just started looking out my window when a storm came in, I looked at the radar, where the map was, and started to track it. In my fifth grade year, I had a chart and I charted all of the hurricanes coming across the Atlantic. So, I kind of put the two and two together.
I was always the one who wanted to be the first to tell people that a storm was coming. I remember there was a point in college, nobody in college on the weekends was focused on academics or at least not their nerdy hobby, and there was this line of really strong thunderstorms right along a cold front coming through, 11 o’clock on a Friday night, and I was tracking the radar on my computer, and when I knew it came close, I ran out with my digital camera and took pictures of it as it blew through. It was amazing to see the rain and the wind and the lightning. When I came back into the dorm, I had a floormate who said, “It’s really cool that you’re so passionate about what you do,” and it kind of dawned on me that meteorology was the right thing.
Who were some of the mentors you had and what was some of the advice they imparted upon you?
Dr. Stephen Vermette at SUNY-Buffalo State College got me really passionate about doing the science. There was a lot of math involved and that’s what scared me away from meteorology in high school, and he got me excited to the point that I was not worried about the math. That was an important part to get me over the hump, I was getting into the meat of meteorology.
I did a job shadow with the Channel 2 meteorologist in Buffalo. His name is Chesley McNeil, he’s down in Atlanta now. He opened my eyes to the fact that I could do TV meteorology if I wanted to with the science I knew, and I thought, “I could break science down in an easy way that people can understand and have fun with it.” My hometown meteorologist Steve Caporizzo in Albany helped me greatly the summer after college put together the on-air work, perfecting the craft, not being “too” scientific on TV or at least translating the science into television appropriate. Just getting comfortable on air, a lot of it’s like theatrical work, you’re just so awkward and green and you don’t sound polished and you’re nervous. It takes time to work out the kinks.
Those people started me off getting in, but really the chief meteorologists in my first two jobs, Andy McCray in Rock Island, Illinois, WHBF, and then when I went to Birmingham, Mark Prater, they got me more confident and taught me the ways of being on TV, what viewers cared about, what management cared about.
What advice would you give to students or early career professionals that might make it easier for them transition in their careers?
Do as many internships as possible and take advantage of them. Don’t just look at it as the job you want to do, but the jobs around them. I’m not a news anchor, I’m not a sports reporter, I’m not a photographer, but all of that was involved. You can improve your job by looking at the jobs around you, whether it’s in TV or in meteorologist. If you don’t know about social media and you’re going into meteorology, whether you’re on television or not, you’re not understanding the science and where it’s moving. If you don’t look around at other people and talk to them about what they’re doing and where they’re going, those in your internship, your classmates, your coworkers, you’re not going to take it all in.