Last Saturday, when staff was working to keep readers updated on the incoming snow storm, somebody ordered pizza for the newsroom. Meteorologist Joe Martucci went with an editor to the lobby to help carry the boxes in.
“Hey, I know you. You’re that weather guy!” said the driver.
When the pizza guy knows who you are, you have made it.
Having everyone know who our meteorologist is has been my goal since I first hired one back in 2015. But getting to that point took some work.
This newsroom, like many others I’ve worked in, understands a fundamental truth: Readers love reading about weather almost as much as reporters hate writing about it. Maybe some journalists don’t feel qualified to write about science. Maybe weather doesn’t excite the mind for some folks the way breaking news does. Maybe some would rather write about a political storm than stand in the middle of an actual one.
I wanted to find someone who was as enthusiastic about weather coverage as our readers are.
I had heard about this guy who was on the local TV station but I had never met him. I got his contact information from a colleague and asked him if he’d be willing to meet for coffee. He agreed and Buzz Keough, our managing editor, and I met him one afternoon. We chatted about his career goals and the fact that the station was going out of business in a few weeks.
We knew we wanted an expert on this topic to work in our newsroom but we weren’t exactly sure how that would play out. Having a meteorologist at a daily newspaper is not a common situation. There are a few around the country at some larger papers, and there are plenty of reporters who write about the science of weather. But most newspapers do not have a certified meteorologist on staff. We were winging it.
In January 2015, Dan Skeldon joined The Press. On his first day, he (and many other meteorologists in the Northeast) predicted a huge snow storm that never came. Dan used it as a learning experience and in an early morning tweet said:
“So tomorrow’s forecast: hate mail likely. But I believe a good meteorologist 1) admits when he/she is wrong and 2) learns from the mistakes.”
Things improved from there. Dan brought with him tremendous broadcast and digital skills, along with a large, loyal audience. He taught our newsroom a lot about how to do live stand ups and edit video quickly, increased our social media prowess, and proved that weather could be an engaging and important topic that connects with readers.
Then this past summer, Dan was offered an opportunity at a television station in Pennsylvania that was too good to pass up. It was hard to say goodbye to our first meteorologist but he had set the tone for what The Press could do in weather coverage.
After a lengthy search, we were fortunate to find Joe Martucci, a graduate of the meteorology program at Rutgers University who has interned at three different television stations. In the three months he has been with The Press, Joe has already covered multiple heavy rain events, three snow systems, and broadcast from in the pool at Harrah’s Resort.
“This is a unique opportunity that gives me a lot of creative flexibility,” Joe said. “Here I’m free to explain everything about the process. I can be very transparent with the public. I think The Press is in a unique position to give weather information to readers in this part of the state. Our weather is not the same as that in Philadelphia or New York.”
As we officially head into winter in South Jersey, I’m comforted in knowing that The Press meteorologist has his eyes on the skies and is helping us understand what’s headed our way. Just ask the pizza guy.
For the latest weather update from Joe Martucci, go to http://www.press-ofatlanticcity.com/weather.
Kris Worrell is executive editor and vice president, news.