In the last BBM book, CBC Here Now took a solid leap in the ratings.
At the time, I referenced the various factors that could be driving this growth, and added this one: Ryan Snoddon.
Snoddon is the weathercaster on Here Now. He has a lively, infectious style and his knowledge of meteorology is deep. His greatest skill, in my view, is an ability to collapse a lot of technical weather information into a three-minute segment, and explain it in a way that is understandable to average folks like myself.
In terms of ability and on-camera presence, I rate Snoddon right up there with Claire Martin, CBCs national weather specialist. He has the same spark Martin does including the potential to rise to national prominence. In fact, hes off to a good start: Snoddon recently filled in for Colleen Jones on CBC Newsworld for a couple of weeks, while she was on vacation.
Yes, Snoddon has come a long way for such a young guy (hes just 26 years old). In a phone interview, the farm boy from Peterborough, Ontario said he always wanted to be a broadcaster, but was focused on sports at first.
I was always a huge hockey fan, so hockey play-by-play was really my first thought back in elementary and even high school, he said. Being from a farm, the weather also interested me but I never really thought I could be a weathercaster because I assumed you had to be a full fledged meteorologist.
That changed when he started working at the radio station on Peterborough, working part-time as a news reporter. Snoddon offered to provide vacation relief for the stations weatherman, who had been there 30 years. He began practicing with the green screen, which is the blank screen in front of which the weathercaster stands the graphics are inserted digitally.
And before I had a chance to fill in for the weathercaster, he retired! So I applied for the job and somehow got it! I have no idea how
Snoddon said it was difficult going at first.
Trying to figure out where you are on the green screen, trying to look at two monitors beside you, trying to find your place, tying to remember everything you want to say and have to say with no teleprompter its a little overwhelming at first. But I found my feet eventually and the people in central Ontario were very kind for those first few months. I kind of found my spot there, and feel right at home in front of the green screen now.
No kidding. Snoddon has leaped from reporting weather in Peterborough county to covering a massive province, where weather conditions can be vastly different from one region to the next.
Its certainly more challenging. In Ontario, I was forecasting for an area the size of the northern half of the Avalon. Here, Im covering from Labrador City to Nain to Cape Race to Port aux Basques. This is a massive province, which is issue number one. Being able to cover everybody and talk about everything and making sure people dont feel left out is difficult, when theres often two or three different weather stories happening in the same day. And of course, theres the ocean. Its a huge factor. The biggest thing I had to deal with in Ontario was the great lakes and lake breeze convergence, which was a factor on the weather there, but nothing compared to what the ocean throws into the mix here. Its been a learning curve for me but Im slowly getting a hold of it.
Snoddon said his work has been made easier by a new graphics package that converts the movement of weather systems into easy-to-comprehend animations. The goal is to make sure people can understand, he said. I keep it on everyday terms and try not to throw too much technical mumbo jumbo at the viewers, while keeping it informative and entertaining.
He moved here with his girlfriend in June of 2008, Snoddon said, and both have become smitten with the province.
Its fantastic so far, he said. Were both blown away by the scenery. We both like to get out and hike Between the whales and icebergs last summer, the fall was just gorgeous and the winter hasnt been too bad. And then of course the people are wonderful. With the snow that did fall, the neighbours came over to plough out the driveway when there was too much to shovel. Everyones been really nice and really welcoming.
In a short period of time, Snoddon has become one of the most recognizable faces in the province. However, he says he can move freely in public without much fuss.
When I go out Ive usually got the John Deere hat and the lumberjack coat on, so when Im not in the suit I find that I go a little bit under the radar. Some people give me a second look, so I just kinda wave and say, hey! Whenever people do notice me, they usually just nod their head or say hello. Everyones been really nice and I havent had any bad experiences. I havent had anyone marching over from across the store or anything. When they see me, they just wave and thats it. Its been really nice.
In his spare time, Snoddon hits the textbooks. He is taking the Broadcast Meteorology Program through Mississippi State University, and is in the second semester of a three-year program. He hopes to graduate in 2011.
I usually study at least an hour and half every night, he said. Its a pretty heavy workload, but it has helped me already, working here with the ocean, helping to understand currents in the upper atmosphere. Its all good and its just (a matter of) managing the workload. Between work and school, its a lot to take in. But its a pretty cool course and Im happy to be taking it. It helps to fill in some of the blanks. A lot of it I cant relay on the air because its technical detail that a lot of people dont care much about, but it helps me better understand. And the more I understand, the better able I am to explain.
When not busy preparing for Here Now, Snoddon performs weather hits for CBC Radio and generates material for his blog, which you can find here. Its quite a piece of work that offers more than a rehash of the evening weather report.
People have been pouring the comments in (at the blog) and its really nice, he said. Even if you miss the show, I try to have something more on the blog to try and show whats going on with the weather. I cant go into too much detail (on TV), because I only have three minutes for each hit, so thats my outlet where I can type away for as long as I want, be a bit more descriptive, talk about various models and how theyre tracking. Its a cool outlet for me and people seem to be enjoying it.
I put Snoddon on the spot. I asked if he thought his addition to Here Now was a key driver in that programs ratings growth. Not surprisingly, his answer was diplomatic.
I think obviously weather is an important factor in this province, he said. With the new graphics package obviously we can give a more detailed forecast. But the team here has been working long and hard for the last couple of years, theyve really been digging their heels in and working hard. You can see how hard everybody works here. If I had any hand in people saying Oh theres a new weather guy and if I had any hand in people changing the channel just to check me out, well, theres a lot of people who are working really, really hard here to keep them on the station, and keep them from changing back. If they switch over to take a look at the new weather, then they stuck around not just because of that they stuck around because they see Here Now is an up and coming thing and getting back to its roots and is the real deal.
Postscript: Ryan Snoddon will be guest speaker at a breakfast event of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), NL chapter, on May 21 at the Holiday Inn. The event is open to non-members. For more information, click here.