Stars of the show

Stars of the show

Once consigned to a spot well within the broadcast and given only enough time to rush through the highlights, weather broadcasters are now at the start, often leading the show, with spots in the middle and the close. Staff writer PAUL WOOD talked with TV's new go-to personalities about how the industry has changed.

Adapting to conditions

After 41 years in broadcasting, DOUG QUICK has watched the weather go from hand-drawn clouds to digital graphics, and now works with state-of-the-art tools (such as the green screen behind him in this photo) on FOX-Illinois Channel 27, where he co-anchors and does weather at 5:30 and 9 p.m.

"Instead of just three minutes, I have windows at the beginning and two in the middle and one at the end of the 9 p.m. show," he said. "I'm able to include a lot more weather information than I was able to do in the 30-minute newscast."

He calls himself "a communicator. Longevity depends on who the viewers feel comfortable with"; he's the longest-tenured weather broadcaster here.

For him, that means "I'm not a meteorologist, and I don't pretend to be."

His center has nine computers with data from the National Weather Service interpreted by a professional service, he said.

Quick said most people watching TV have a simple wish for their weather broadcast.

"Our viewers want to know how the weather will directly affect them. They want to know what the weekend will be like," Quick said. "They want to know if they need to get to the grocery store to stock up."

TV coverage of weather has changed immensely from drawings on the chalkboard, many times not indicating cold and warm fronts.

"Computers started to come into it. The first computers you had to dial up (on a modem) and wait 40 minutes for a graphic to download a satellite image," he said.

Quick also puts up posts on social media, including video, and provides weather forecasts for three area radio stations.

Quick has worked in the Taylorville, Springfield, Decatur, Danville and Champaign-Urbana markets.

He went to college for pre-pharmacy, "but I'd always had the bug. My parents were very young and listened to KXOK from St. Louis and WLS (in Chicago) for Top 40 radio, and I've always been a TV bug from my childhood days."

He maintains a website called "Central Illinois On-Line Broadcast Museum" at

Changing fronts

CHERYL LEMKE remembers a whole different look for TV weather when she started.

"When I first got into broadcasting, there weren't many woman, especially with a meteorology degree," said the Iowa State meteorology major.

She has been in the business since 1983, and now works at WICS Newschannel 20, which covers Springfield, Decatur and Champaign weather, celebrating her first anniversary there.

Her resume includes a long stint with the omnipresent Weather Channel, founded by veteran television meteorologist John Coleman, who once worked at WCIA-TV doing "At The Hop" while he was a student at the University of Illinois.

Lemke is originally from Omaha, Neb.; her first TV job was in Terre Haute, Ind.

She keeps up with the science.

"It's crucial in our business to do your homework, continuing education," she said. "Like any other science field, there's some new way to get data, or to do an analysis, or some new gadget or gizmo."

Instant outlooks

WAND's J.C. FULTZ has been doing the weather since he was 5, delivering it to his grandparents.

The Bethany native studied earth science as well as broadcasting, and began his career at WAND when he was still in college in 2002.

He was also the chief forecaster for WEIU's "News Watch" and WSIU's "River Region Evening Edition."

What didn't they have in 2002?

"Social media has grown to be very important; it's a focal point of our outreach," he said.

"Everybody wants news instantly on their tablet at home or in a restaurant," he said. Internet is "now the first screen, and television is the second screen."

What has also changed is the challenge of competition with all those other news sources.

"You need to be creative, show more things, and with the new technology we have, to know how to explain things more in depth," he said.

High-pressure systems forming online

Viewers want more and more weather information, said DERICK FABERT, the chief meteorologist for WCIA and WCIX.

"We keep adding more weather content throughout the newscast," he said. "More time in the newscast is important to me as well, so that I can work more details in."

Fabert said his career goal was to be a chief meteorologist.

"I got there at 29, so I can't complain about my career at all," he said.

Meteorologists bring the profession more credibility, he said, but there's still a battleground: online and social media.

"There are so many non-meteorologists that publish 'forecasts' that are usually worst-case scenarios for snow events. It makes our job harder explaining how another forecast is much worse than ours," he said.

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