Career Profile: Scott Prinsen
Scott Prinsen is a living testament to the value of internships. Now an on-air meteorologist at Fox 7 News in Austin, TX, he believes that he would not be where he is today if not for the internships he had while an undergraduate student. “They were absolutely essential,” he says. “Each one was different, but the connections I made opened doors for me in other places when I left.”
Scott’s interest in maps and weather started at an early age; by the time he got to college, he was sure that he wanted to be a weatherman. When he enrolled at Texas State University-San Marcos, Scott chose to minor in media communications to gain a basic familiarity with broadcasting, and he declared geography as his major. "Every aspect of geography has an impact on what I know in terms of how people are being affected by a weather event," he explains. “Natural hazards, resource studies, topography, population patterns, GIS, climatology – at some point throughout the year, all of this knowledge is needed for me to communicate weather information to the public.”
A series of well-timed internships were key in positioning Scott for his future career. During his junior and senior years, he interned at the Lower Colorado River Authority and at two Austin-area TV stations – KXAN and KTBC – where he gained a suite of skills ranging from behind-the-scenes production work, to using a green screen for on-air weather forecasting, to a variety of more technical skills such as radio operations and communications. By the time he graduated, Scott’s combination of education and professional skills made him an attractive job candidate. He was quickly hired as a weather assistant at KXAN in Austin, then as a meteorologist at KLST in San Angelo and KXXV in Waco. Shortly thereafter, he found himself in his dream position, forecasting the weather on camera. Scott worked as Chief Meteorologist at News 8 Austin before joining the Fox 7 Weather Edge team in August 2004. (View his employee bio at: http://www.myfoxaustin.com/dpp/about_us/personalities/Scott_Prinsens_Bio.)
Because weather is highly variable, Scott’s daily routine is somewhat unpredictable. On any given day, he might do research to give a historical perspective on extreme droughts or tropical storms, communicate with the newsroom about impending weather events, compile a forecast based on computer models and other data, prepare graphics for his nightly segments, and provide weather information for his station’s website, radio broadcasts, and social media applications. “We do a lot more than what it seems like we’re doing on air,” he says. Today, meteorologists are increasingly seen as "station scientists" who provide insight into a variety of current events involving environmental issues, not just as on-air personalities.
Like other media, local news stations are in the midst of sweeping changes brought on by the emergence of new technology. Because most people under the age of 40 now look to the Internet or smart phones for their news and weather information, viewerships are trending downward. While these realities present significant challenges for local weather forecasters, Scott remains optimistic about their larger role in the future. “Computer models now generate a lot of online forecasts, but we're always going to need human intervention in meteorology, especially in terms of severe weather,” he notes. Above all else, Scott considers public safety to be the most important aspect of his job. As a native Texan, his intimate knowledge of the state’s weather patterns and population distributions is vital in communicating potential hazards and relaying safety information to the public. Scott sees room for a new generation of meteorologists who know the intricacies of local and regional micro-climates and other geographical quirks that affect the weather. He advises that agencies and media outlets take advantage of emerging technologies, but keep a strong local presence. “This is a bright spot,” he says, “and it is definitely where the industry needs to go.”
This profile was published in 2012 by Mark Revell.