THE PLEASURES AND PERILS OF PRESENTING THE WEATHER...
It's been seven years since Scott Simms signed off for the last time to make a successful bid for federal office, but, as far as the public is concerned, he's still that guy who does the weather forecast. "To this day, I walk into airports and have people coming up to me saying, 'You're the weather guy!'" says Simms. "They say, 'What do you do now?' And I say, 'Well, I'm in politics now.'" It's one more bit of proof that people love talking about the weather-a fact that has had no small part in ingraining the Weather Network in the Canadian psyche. Simms, who was elected in Newfoundland's Bonavista riding as a Liberal in 2004, gives much of the credit for his victory to the face time he logged on TV delivering temperatures to his neighbours. After a while, people just get comfortable with you, Simms says. "The secret for any weather personality is to actually crawl through the television, sit in the living room and have a cup of tea-have a little conversation-and then at the end say, 'By the way, when you go out tomorrow, bring your umbrella,'" says Simms. "It's a very personal experience." Current Weather Network broadcaster Chris Murphy knows the downside of that relationship. "Our viewers are very savvy," he says. "Unfortunately, I'm in the business where when I'm right, no one remembers. And when I'm wrong, no one forgets."Experience has taught Murphy that certain aspects of nature are sometimes beyond the ken of meteorologists and weather presenters. "A notorious province is Alberta, because it's all wind-driven," he says. "We once had a forecast of 15 or 20 degrees in Calgary in mid-February. And I was selling this thing like a furniture store going out of business. Well, it snowed that day. It was two degrees and miserable. We had people call in. There were no death threats, which I certainly appreciate."
AND THE HOW-TO, IN SIX EASY STEPS
1. Pause and affect "Don't try to jam too much information in there. Pause, pause, pause, pause. That's what gets people's attention." - Scott Simms
2. Paint a picture "Don't drown people in the science. If the sun is going to come out in January, I'll refer to it as a fake fireplace: It looks nice, but it's not going to warm you up." -Chris Murphy
3.Find your inner thespian "It's unscripted, ad libbed, and there's no one else in the studio except us. So it's a live performance, not unlike the stage, except the lines are different every day." -Suzanne Leonard
4. Do the math "Let's say it's raining. It's plus 4, but it's going down to minus 7 tonight. That's the straight goods, but you've missed the story. The story is, when you come home tonight, look out, you could probably skate your way home." -Scott Simms
5. Plan carefully for your four hours on air "It's a tricky balance. You want to eat as late as you can, so you've got that fuel to get you through, but early enough so that you can digest it, so that you're not re-enjoying it on air." -Suzanne Leonard
6. Respect history "I have come to learn that when there is a west wind in Alberta, it's going to be warm; when there is a south wind in Toronto in the summer, it's going to be humid. And nothing good has ever come from an east wind." -Chris Murphy