As avid readers of this space are aware, I’m an admirer of Chicago weatherperson Tom Skilling. His work on WGN has always seemed to be well ahead of the curve in terms of graphic presentation. His presentation is fact-rich and thorough (a new wrinkle in coverage of the winter storm hitting Illinois tonight: a discussion of pavement temperatures), yet understated. And his on-air material is supplemented by the best full page of weather I’ve seen in any newspaper, much of which is reproduced in the WGN Weather Center Blog. Typically, the blog includes an evening post written after WGN’s night news show; the posts usually carry Skilling’s name. The other night I was reading one, and was struck that the head of the station’s weather operation was actually taking the time to put out a last thoughtful and well-crafted message before shutting down for the night. I’ve been in other TV newsrooms, and I can tell you that that’s pretty unusual (and you half-suspect someone else on the team drew the short straw for this duty).
(For comparison’s sake, this is what the San Francisco Chronicle passed off as weather knowledge on Thursday: a 50-word blurb from one of the KPIX weatherpersons on why you can see your breath when it’s cold out: “…When your breath leaves your warm body and comes in contact with cold air, it cools rapidly. As it cools, the invisible water vapor condenses into tiny water droplets, similar to to droplets in a cloud or fog.” That’s actually one of the more provocative treatises the page has delivered recently.)
I wrote Skilling a note telling him how much I like the stuff he and his group put out–yeah, drooling fan mail to a meteorologist. Surprise of surprises–though not as amazing as the time Kate wrote to Mr. Rogers and got back a beautiful two-page letter that bore all the signs of having actually come from Fred Rogers himself–Skilling wrote back to thank me. Must not get a lot of email from Berkeley. Made my day; or at least part of it.