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Tracking James - James Gregorio
10/21/2009 - By Gayle Davis
Photo by McKay Imaging
James Gregorio, News 12 New Jersey meteorologist, always looking up no matter what the weather may bring
As a young boy growing up on the eastern shores of Long Island, New York, James Gregorio always knew he had a connection with the environment. An avid surfer, he was constantly “in tune” with the weather. After all, it becomes a large part of your life when you spend your days riding the waves. It wasn’t long before the weather became a passion for James. Ironically, the day-to-day “weather” affair that once supported his favorite hobby (and still does) led him to a career in meteorology. Today thousands of people throughout the Garden State tune in to watch him report the weather…on Cablevision’s News 12 New Jersey station.
Gregorio has been a staple at the station for about 12 years and has seen a lot of advancements in technology that have helped him deliver the most up-to-date and accurate forecasts possible. He has earned a name for himself in this market, and has, on occasion, even been spotted catching a wave on the Jersey Shore!
Living In Marlboro had the chance to spend some time with the Montauk native early this fall. He candidly shared his love for surfing, his career details, and his charitable side as well. One thing is for sure, James knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the weather. It’s time to tune in…so don’t change that channel!
LIM: Let’s “clear” something up from the outset. You are a meteorologist, not a “weather anchorman.” Please explain the difference for those who may not know.
JG: A meteorologist has the schooling and training that a weather man does not. You either have a degree in meteorology or from the military. In my case I am “sealed,” which is basically the equivalent to being board certified…like a doctor. I have my television seal from the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association as well. I hold both of these seals, so these organizations say, “Hey, this guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s okay.”
LIM: And a “weather anchorman” is defined as…
JG: Anyone, man or woman, who is presenting the weather on TV. It could be an anchor who is doing the weather, or someone [else] who doesn’t have specific training.
LIM: When did you decide that predicting the weather was something that you’d like to do as a career?
JG: I think I decided when I was in high school. I’m a surfer and have been surfing for 25 years, and I was watching the Weather Channel one day trying to figure out if there were going to be waves and I was like, “I can do that!” I don’t surf well enough to be a “pro” surfer, so I said let me pick the next best thing!
LIM: Where did you receive your training?
JG: I did the Mississippi State Broadcast Meteorology program after I graduated from Ithaca College in New York. So I have an undergraduate degree, and then my post graduate studies are from Mississippi State.
LIM: What is the teaching method for weather and meteorology?
JG: Basically, you start out with an intro to meteorology, intro to climatology…then you get into more in depth stuff, like severe weather, as well as synoptic meteorology and thermodynamics; so it gets a little bit more difficult as you go along.
LIM: Now that you are a meteorologist do you find that you’ve been able to apply all that you’ve learned to your job?
JG: It’s so computerized now, and there is so much more information… You know, we’re not figuring out things with longhand and complex calculus equations, or using wax pencils. The information is so good and so abundant, it’s really not necessary.
LIM: What are your particular interests and specialties in the field of meteorology?
JG: Definitely tropical meteorology and oceanography.
LIM: How would you define tropical meteorology?
JG: Trying to figure out hurricanes and seeing what’s brewing in the tropics, as opposed to being a glaciologist, which is trying to figure out the snow pack over the Midwest and the Rockies. That’s not interesting to me. I want to know if the waves coming off of Africa are going to develop into a storm or not.
LIM: How far out can you make predictions?
JG: In terms of tropical systems…my friend just recently sent me a message saying, “Nice job with Hurricane Bill. You called that a few weeks in advance!” So I thought that was pretty cool. I was psyched!
LIM: Where did you work prior to News 12?
JG: I started my on-air weather career in Roanoke, Virginia.
LIM: Were you always a meteorologist?
JG: No. I actually started doing weather before that as a weather man, and then became a meteorologist along the way. The Mississippi State program is correspondence, so that’s where I chose to do it.
LIM: And then did you work at an affiliate somewhere?
JG: I did. I started at WSOS in Roanoke, which is an NBC affiliate. That was while I was an NBC page. I left New York to go to Roanoke, and then went back to New York to finish being a page at 30 Rock. When that was up I went to WRIC in Richmond, Virginia, which was the ABC affiliate. Then I came back up here to Montauk, Long Island, and basically freelanced at New 12 for about a year. I did the weekends in New Jersey. Then I was promoted to mornings.
LIM: How did you land the job at News 12 New Jersey?
JG: I had been doing weekends and they wanted to make a change. The morning position was open, so I was able to fit right in.
LIM: By this time you were a meteorologist?
JG: By this time I was. I had my National Weather Association Seal. I was working toward my AMS seal as well.
LIM: How many years have you been with the cable station?
JG: About 12.
LIM: Do you find that there is less pressure working in cable versus the network affiliates?
JG: I think so to a certain extent. You know, we have the luxury of having another source of revenue with our cable subscriptions, although the News 12 model is not paying very high salaries. The other side of the coin is the affordability of more security than some of my colleagues at the broadcast affiliates.
LIM: Do you need to be concerned with ratings?
JG: We do now…we certainly look at them all the time.
LIM: What’s a good rating in cable?
JG: I think if we can consistently do between a 1 and a 2 in the mornings… we’d be pretty happy with that.
LIM: Whom do you consider your competition?
JG: That’s an interesting question. It depends who you ask. We know that we are competing against the city stations. We are competing against everybody…now FIOS. They’ve just launched a news program. So we are competing against everybody. Also the Internet and, to some extent, we are competing with ourselves. We have a 24-hour traffic and weather station.
LIM: Oh…so Channel 61 is affiliated?
JG: Yes, exactly!
LIM: Do you ever do any crossover?
JG: I used to do traffic and weather! But they have since expanded and grown so much they have their own traffic and weather people.
LIM: What’s a typical day at work like for you? I bet sometimes you look forward to the challenges of an atypical day.
JG: Exactly! You know typical stuff…getting in early at 4 o’clock in the morning. That’s when I’m trying to figure out the forecast! It’s probably the most enjoyable part for me. It’s like putting together a puzzle everyday!
LIM: What’s your lead-time before you actually go on the air?
JG: About 45 minutes to an hour. That’s the time to forecast, make some graphics, and get it ready to go on the air. Mondays are not the most difficult, but it’s kind of like starting from scratch after being off for a couple days; whereas Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I had already watched the weather pattern develop. During the week it’s that much easier because you are sort of tweaking the days prior.
LIM: How do you handle a breaking weather story?
JG: I get live radar on my PDA, so even if I am off and at the gym I can still watch the line of storms. We break in (just like the networks would) if we have a significant weather system to report. In fact, we do it more so than the networks because we aren’t pre-empting regular programming, so to speak. We have the luxury to do that at the drop of a hat.
LIM: Do you forecast statewide?
JG: We do, but we are only seen in the Northern 18 counties. So although we can tell you what the weather may be in Atlantic City, if you are going to travel there you can’t watch us there or in Cape May.
LIM: When can we see you on the air?
JG: Monday through Friday, from 5 am to 5 pm!
LIM: What is your rate of accuracy?
JG: You know, I’ve never really gauged it in terms of hitting the highs or hitting the lows. I would say I’m always within 3 degrees. It’s interesting because New Jersey has five different climate regions, from the mountains in Sussex County to the Jersey Shore to the Pine Barrens…
LIM: “From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream Waters…”
JG: [Laughs] Exactly…to Bergen County to Newark.
LIM: Do you get offended when you hear people say the “weather people” never get it right?
JG: No, no. Not really.
LIM: Do you ever hear that?
JG: I hear it all the time. It’s impossible to please everybody.
LIM: You’ve been in the weather biz for quite some time now. As technology has advanced, has your job gotten any easier?
JG: Yes and no. As technology has advanced forecasting has probably become easier, but we have gone from years ago being “weather casters” delivering weather for a news program to being “content casters.” Now forecast is delivered via many platforms…the Internet, on our IO cable box…so there is more asked of us. With the advancement of technology they get more work out of us! So our job has become easier in a way, but we have more to do.
LIM: Describe one scenario that you can look back on where you wished you had a better way of forecasting.
JG: Most recently, I guess, last October when we got that one snowstorm…where we got over a foot of snow in Sussex County! It was really tough to dial that one in.
LIM: What do you think made it so tough?
JG: Well, there are just so many variables; there is so much going on. When you are dealing with the elevation of Sussex County…an early season storm like that…you’re thinking the temperatures would in no way support that amount of snow. So that is one that I wish we could take back!
LIM: Do you recall the biggest storm you’ve ever covered out in the field?
JG: Yeah. I remember Hurricane Gloria when I was growing up in Long Island; I went surfing right after it. Tropical Storm Floyd was pretty crazy! After that…the flooding over the Delaware River was wild. I remember surveying it from up in the chopper…it was really cool.
LIM: Do people outside of work always ask you what the weather is going to be like tomorrow?
JG: All the time…all the time. Whether it’s for something personal like a wedding, or a photo shoot…
LIM: What honors or awards have you received for your work?
JG: We’ve received a Telly Award for the best morning show. I don’t send in a lot of my stuff to the Emmys and stuff like that. I am just more concerned with doing a good job and our ratings being good as opposed to being inundated with accolades and that sort of thing.
LIM: Who do you admire in the world of weather?
JG: Oh, there are so many great people out there. The late John Hope was an amazing hurricane forecaster; Steve Lyons, great guy, surfer from Huntington Beach, California…great tropical forecaster. A lot of my friends and colleagues…Craig Allen, Nick Gregory…guys that I’ve worked with for a long time that really have a passion for weather and not just want to be on TV.
LIM: Do you have a passion for weather?
JG: I do, of course. That’s how it started. You know I was able to turn my passion for surfing and forecasting the weather [for surf] into a career, so it’s been pretty cool.
LIM: Did you have a mentor?
JG: I have been lucky. I have two great mentors: Joe Cioffe, from Long Island, and Joe Witte, who used to work at WNBC, and is now back in Washington, DC. So both Joes have been fantastic! They both have different specialties and perspectives, but are great forecasters and great teachers.
LIM: Do you commiserate with any other meteorologists in the market?
JG: All the time! It’s a pretty tight group. Our forecasts are pretty similar.
LIM: Is there any competition amongst you?
JG: I think we are all just happy to do our thing. We do it in different places. I don’t think there is any competition or animosity. We don’t have the egos or attitudes that other news folks may have [laughs].
LIM: But you tend to see a lot of crossover now. News anchors are often seen doing the weather.
JG: Exactly. Now weather is the highest rated part of the show! It’s the number one thing that drives the newscast.
LIM: Do you have higher aspirations in the business, such as working for any of the major networks?
JG: Yeah, that would be great. If it happens I will certainly relish the opportunity. I think it’s great to have goals, but you have to remain focused on what you’re doing now. So that’s where I’m at…just trying to raise my kids and catch a few waves here and there!
LIM: Here is a really important question. How vital is the dew point?
JG: [Laughs] Not really! Especially if you ask our consultants. It’s just a measure of moisture in the atmosphere.
LIM: What are some of your other interests?
JG: Surfing, stand-up paddle surfing, hanging out with my kids. [I have] a lot of aquatic interests. I am definitely a beach boy! Growing up on Long Island Sound and with really good surfing in Montauk…I think it really spoiled me.
LIM: You are involved in raising money for a special charity. Please tell us about your involvement with that.
JG: I do a lot of charity stuff. Most recently it was with the Surfers Environmental Alliance. We raised money to create autism awareness. We raise money for Autism Speaks, Beautiful Sun, Surfer’s Healing, New Jersey Family Services, as well as for our own charity.
LIM: You had mentioned that you paddled around Manhattan?
JG: Yeah. We just did that. It was 28 ½ miles. We call it an endurance charity event. It’s not a race, but some of the guys really get into it. There are surfers that do it, actors and actresses…we get people from all walks of life trying to help out.
LIM: Tell me about your “surfcasting” hobby.
JG: That’s something that I started when I was a kid. It kind of parlayed into being a meteorologist.
LIM: You were born and raised in Long Island?
JG: Yes, eastern Long Island.
LIM: And you went to Ithaca College?
JG: Yes for undergrad; and Mississippi State for post grad.
LIM: Are you married?
JG: Yes. To Cynthia Scott. We met at News 12. The funny thing about it is, the Emmy on our mantle is hers, not mine! She’s an Emmy award-winning reporter! Now she works as the Public Information Officer for the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office. She’s been busy with Sheriff Kim Guadagno, who is running for Lieutenant Governor. It’s been a little crazy at times with full-time careers!
LIM: Do you have kids?
JG: Yes. Twin girls! Ava and Nicole. They just turned 5!
LIM: How long have you lived in Marlboro?
JG: Going on 10 years I think.
LIM: What attracted you to this town?
JG: When I started at News 12 I was briefly living in Edgewater. I was subletting a place. I had just gotten the job and needed a place to live quickly. It was a beautiful condo that overlooked the George Washington Bridge, but it was still about 45 minutes away from work. So I needed to be closer and I also wanted to be closer to the beach. I was eventually able to make the move to Marlboro with my fiancé (at the time).
LIM: The reason you chose Marlboro was…
JG: I guess the proximity to News 12 and the proximity to the beach…and being one of the larger towns in Monmouth County it afforded a lot of great options, as well as being a very safe and nice community.
LIM: Do you get spotted around town? Do people recognize you?
JG: [Laughs] Yes. More so in Target or Home Depot…places like that…even near the water. I’ll be surfing and people will say, “Hey you’re James Gregorio!” It’s just bizarre that people can even spot me with my hair all wild, unshaven, sunburned, and paste on my face!
LIM: Any advice for anyone wanting to do what you do?
JG: Just to follow your passion. If you don’t have a passion for it, you probably shouldn’t do it. Ultimately, if you want to do it you have to work hard, study hard, and go for it if that’s your dream. I turned my passion for surfing, the ocean, and the environment and turned it into a career!
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Three People You'd Like to Have Dinner With:
Bill Clinton, Kelly Slater, and my grandfathers, who passed away when I was young
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