Professors tuning in to WUGA-TV at night may start recognizing some faces during the weather portion of the news. That’s because the Atmospheric Sciences Program in the Department of Geography, the UGA chapter of the American Meteorological Society and the television station have teamed up with students to produce on-air weather forecasts.
“The collaboration with WUGA-TV represents a wonderful opportunity for our students,” said Thomas Mote, professor and head of the geography department, which is part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Nearly every career in meteorology requires polished communication skills. Even students who don’t wish to pursue a career in broadcast meteorology will benefit from the opportunity to improve their presentation skills. The collaboration with WUGA-TV provides a public service opportunity with a broad audience across the region.”
WUGA-TV, the public television station owned and operated by the university, is available in 1.55 million homes in 55 counties in north Georgia and can be watched locally on Charter cable channel 6 and channel 32 of DishNetwork, AT&T Uverse and DirecTV. The station is on university cable channel 8.1.
The 12 students, who are developing the forecast under the guidance of Jeff Dantre, director of news and content for WUGA-TV, videotape the weather segment each weekday. During the process, a group of two to four students looks at weather models to determine the forecast for the area, creates the slides and images to be shown and records the presentation for airing.
“We have until 2 o’clock to record everything,” said Matt Daniel, president of the student AMS chapter, who is providing the student leadership for the collaboration. “It’s been a really good learning experience, especially for those looking to get into the broadcast side of the field.”
Jimmy Sanders, director of WUGA-TV and WUGA-FM, said the students are relying on the National Weather Service-which provides its information free-for their maps. He said they also are forecasting some on their own for the Athens area, a region that often isn’t the focus of Atlanta weather broadcasts.
“This is the only station that does local weather for this area,” he said, “and this collaboration brings even more value to the television station, which in turn provides a service to the public.”
Daniel said one of the biggest challenges is translating the extensive weather models into information to be aired for WUGA-TV’s large coverage area.
“When we present to ourselves about weather we go technical, but when you’re doing TV, you’ve got to make sure everyone watching understands it,” he said. “So we try to figure out what viewers need to know and highlight it since we can’t go into too many details.”
Daniel said the practice of presenting the weather will be invaluable to his and other students’ futures.
“One of the hardest things that comes with going into broadcast is that you have to get up there and practice-that’s really vital,” he said. “It’s great exposure for us personally and as a group.”
Dantre said he’s glad the students have a chance to build their portfolios using tools the station already had. He also said working with the students has been great.
“They are professional; they meet their deadlines; they are serious about what they do,” he said. “It’s been impressive to watch and see them grow throughout this process.”