It’s funny. Just last night, someone I just met mentioned to me something to the effect that all of us who are on TV are reading words on the prompter.
Not so fast!
It’s true that news anchors do read many of the news stories from the prompter, but everything we weather folk say on TV is right off-the-cuff.
In fact, I specialized in extemporaneous speaking on my high school speech/debate team.
It was a great preparation for live television.
We’d all be in an auditorium and draw a slip of paper which gave us the time of day we’d give our six-minute (or so) speech about a current events topic.
When we’d be about 30 minutes out from the time of our address, we’d draw a topic and have only that half-hour to go through our bins of newspaper clippings (yeah, before the internet, remember that?) and study up.
We had to obviously, spend hours clipping articles out of periodicals and file them away before a tournament.
Kosovo. Apartheid. The fall of the Eastern bloc. Our teenaged fingers would be covered in newsprint by the end of a clipping session.
Anyway, back to the auditorium. When our 30 minutes were up, we’d walk into a classroom in the school in front of three judges and give our speech (sometimes allowed one index card for notes, often not allowed any reference help).
The judges were generally knowledgable about current events, so if you didn’t have a grasp on your topic, there was no making it up!
Doing extemporaneous speaking — or “extemp” as it’s known in forensics — was outstanding training for what I do every day.
I do all the research I can, I know my material. Just now in my old age, I’m given hours to prepare my forecast and just deliver two or three minutes on-air! But there are those times when weather is breaking news, and we’re off.
(News anchors also go “off-prompter” when big news is happening, and I work with folks who are the best in the business at keeping coverage going.)