It appears that The Richmond Times-Dispatch wants to break into the local weather game in a big way. A job listing posted at JournalismJobs.com last month indicates that the daily is seeking a meteorologist for its newspaper and website, Richmond.com.
“Job responsibilities include producing accurate daily weather forecasts for the newspaper and website,” the posting reads, “monitoring and covering local weather and environmental news, producing several weather forecast videos per day for Richmond.com, contributing to The Times-Dispatch’s social media platforms, and representing The Times-Dispatch at local events.”
While environmental reporting isn’t new to Richmond media outlets, a full-time meteorologist is a bit of a left-field hire for a newspaper. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.
“I think given the intense interest in the environment, this is a good move by the Times-Dispatch to give their readers what they want and, frankly, what they need,” says Tom Mullen, director of public-affairs journalism at the University of Richmond and a former Times-Dispatch staffer.
“Climate change is real, and I think people in the media have gotten that. There shouldn’t be any more of a debate about that,” Mullen says. “I think this posting will hopefully engage a little more deeply into the issues of climate change.”
Perhaps Richmond’s most high-profile meteorologist, NBC-12’s Andrew Freiden, says a focus on weather also makes sense for a newspaper looking to expand its multimedia focus.
“We aren’t just TV meteorologists anymore. In the past few years, we have really stepped up our game on all of our platforms,” Freiden says by email. “In addition to our traditional TV forecasts, we produce articles for our website and blog, short videos that air within our app, we keep people informed via social media, and we provide explanations of scientific topics for our viewers on TV.”
Then there’s the promotional angle. A friendly and reliable forecaster who can connect with the audience is an essential part of the television news tool kit. A meteorologist also functions as a public face that can interact with the community in ways that reporters can’t.
An inquiry with the newspaper about the role was unreturned at press time. But Mullen says a trustworthy environmental reporter would have to walk a fine line when it comes to promotion.
“I think the Times-Dispatch is in competition for people’s attention,” Mullen says. “If you’re looking for someone to be promotional in the way the TV folks are, that detracts from the mission. That could lead to some discomfort. Are they a reporter or more of an entertainer?”
Whatever the position’s ultimate role, Freiden says he’s enthusiastic about the prospects: “There is always room for more ‘weather’ as it’s the one subject that affects everybody. As a subscriber of the paper, I look forward to seeing what they come up with.”