Meet Fox 5 Emmy Award Meteorologist & Co-Host of Good Day Atlanta, Joanne Feldman
Her Lifelong Fascination with the Weather & Inspiration to Become a Meteorologist Started Early in Life. She can Bring Sunshine into the Dreariest of Weather Forecast.
Q: What made you decide to go in the field of telling the weather?
JF: I had a lifelong fascination with weather, having experienced a hurricane as a child. But it never dawned on me to pursue it as a career until I was halfway through my undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia. I was a broadcast journalism major who was attracted to the energy of the news business, but wasn’t sure reporting was my passion. After taking a weather and climate class to fulfill a science requirement, I was HOOKED. I changed my major to study weather in the Geography department at UGA and then went to graduate school in Meteorology at Penn State University and the rest is history!
Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
JF: My first job was in Fresno, California at a FOX affiliate. Having grown up in Atlanta, it was a completely different world! But it was such a great adventure for a couple of years before moving back to the east coast. I enjoyed seeing and living in a part of the country that I may not have otherwise. And having to forecast for both a desert climate as well as the Sierra Nevada, it broadened my knowledge of weather and microclimates. Beyond that, I was blessed with some pretty incredible mentors while working there who taught me so much about navigating the news business.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
JF: It all starts with an obscenely early alarm clock! My first alarm (I have to set several) goes off at 2am. By the time I get to work, I jump right into looking at data, computer forecast models, etc. and putting together a forecast. I then create the maps you see on television. We have a long morning show! I’m delivering the forecast about every ten minutes from 4:30am until 10am. Then I switch hats from 10am to 11am as a cohost of Good Day Atlanta. I’m very fortunate to have the ability to not only do the weather, but also satisfy that “broadcast news major” side of me from my UGA days by anchoring and interviewing guests.
When I get home, I’ll grab a quick bite to eat and then take a nap (naps are how this night owl survives the early morning work hours). After that, I can function like a “normal” human being by being with my family, taking my daughter to dance rehearsals, getting a workout in, making dinner, etc.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
JF: I love that each day is different. When forecasting, it is like trying to solve a new puzzle every day. And, being a procrastinator, having the daily deadline of getting on the air keeps me on track. When the show is over, I feel like my workday has been all wrapped up in a nice, neat package. Yes, I’m sometimes working on social media/tracking storms after hours or preparing for a guest interview for the next day. But every workday has a goal: have a successful broadcast. And that goal is completed each day, ready or not. It is never a task put off to another day. That is satisfying.
Q: How has technology in predicting the weather changed over the years?
JF: Computer forecast models have become more powerful and capable of modeling the atmosphere with a much higher resolution. There will always be limits to weather forecasting because we can’t possibly account for every layer of the atmosphere at every single spot on the globe simultaneously in these models. But the higher the resolution of the models, the more data we can collect and input into these models, the better guidance we’re going to have as forecasters. As much as people like to joke that “the weatherman/woman never gets it right”, weather forecasting has an impressive accuracy when you consider we are trying to predict the future condition of dynamic, constantly changing fluid (the atmosphere). One of the best analogies I’ve heard is: imagine putting a pot of water on the stove and turning it on. And then imagine trying to predict exactly where each boiling bubble is going to be in that fluid at any given moment. Then you’ll have an idea how complex forecasting really is.
Q: Have you ever had that the one embarrassing moment on TV you can share with us?
JF: Oh goodness. I’ve had many. But the one that stands out the most was when I mixed up two words and combined them into one very unfortunate one. Sometimes my brain is working faster/slower than my mouth. And when my brain wanted to refer to the rain on the weather map as “the last bit of rain”, but my mouth wanted to say “the last batch of rain” …well, I’ll let you figure out what word came out with I combined “bit” and “batch” into one word. I was mortified and instantly apologized when I realized what happened!
Q: You’ve been honored with three Emmy Awards; can you share with us what this meant to you.
JF: It meant a lot to me to be acknowledged by my peers for the job that I do. I follow many meteorologists on Twitter, and several – especially women - have tweeted about having “imposter syndrome”, where they always question if they know enough or are as qualified as their peers and colleagues. So, having people who work in the industry look at my work and essentially say, “This is good. This is worthy.” was very satisfying and helped to alleviate a bit of that imposter syndrome in myself. At the end of the day though, it is all so subjective. I’m proud of those awards, but I’m keenly aware of the limits to what they really mean in the grand scheme of things.
Q: Do you have any advice you can share for those women who may want to pursue a career as a Meteorologist?
JF: I think my advice would apply to any career a woman would want to pursue don’t let fear hold you back! When I discovered how much physics, calculus, etc. was involved in getting a meteorology degree, I almost instantly dismissed the possibility that I was equipped to do it. But I’ve also never been one to shy away from hard work. I had to give myself many pep talks to get past the fear of failure in school and a fear of failing to get a good TV job. I had to tell myself that, if I was successful, it would all be worth it. If I wasn’t successful, I was guaranteed to have learned some important life lessons in trying.
Q: How do you maintain a healthy work life balance?
JF: It is always a work in progress! It has gotten a bit easier as my children have gotten older. But I think being a creature of habit helps. I try to find what works and stick with that routine while occasionally checking in with myself to ask, “what isn’t working right now and what can I do about it?”
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
JF: There are so many. I’m inspired by courageous, fearless women, mostly because I feel those are qualities, I could stand to have more of in myself. Malala Yousafzai would be at the top of a long list for me because of those qualities and because of her commitment to understanding how vital education is, no matter who you are or where you’re from.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
JF: I feel that trying to “do it all” has been a tough balance to strike for women for decades. But now many do it under the microscope of social media judgement. Everyone has an opinion to share on every aspect of your life: work, motherhood, appearance, etc. Everyone has to figure out what works best for them. Feeling constantly judged for your choices only complicates something that was already complicated!
Q: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
JF: I am a hardcore fan of James Bond films! I know more trivia about the franchise than is probably healthy. And don’t ask me to pick a favorite Bond. I love each of them for different reasons. The peak of my “fandom” came just a few months ago when Naomie Harris (who plays Moneypenny in the most recent films) came on Good Day Atlanta to promote her latest movie. When I mentioned on air how much I loved her as Moneypenny, she came over and gave me a hug. I actually broke down in tears on TV! I certainly didn’t expect to be so star struck. But yes, it does happen, even in our line of work!
Five Things About Meteorologist Joanne Feldman
1. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
Kate Middleton/Duchess of Cambridge. Hers is a life I can’t imagine on many levels. In addition to wanting to understand the unique privilege/wealth she has in life; I also want to know how she handles the pressures of her public life so graciously.
2. What’s your favorite holiday?
Hands down, Christmas. We have so many wonderful family traditions at Christmas time that we look forward to. Even though the run up to Christmas is always busy, busy, busy, Christmas itself is the one time of year that the entire family and extended family slows down to enjoy the moment and enjoy each other’s company. Simply being a time of year when people seem to put a little more effort into being nice to each other helps, too!
3. What book are you currently reading?
Admittedly, I am not a voracious reader when it comes to reading for pleasure. But with the pandemic having affected vacation plans, I felt a strong urge to re-create vacation life as much as I could when I had recent time off. That meant plopping myself in a lounge chair in the sun, making a cocktail, and reading a guilty pleasure beach book. So, Mary Kay Andrews’ “Sunset Beach” fit the bill!
4. What app can’t you live without?
The FOX 5 Storm Team app, of course!
5. What do you wish you knew more about?
History! It was a subject that I didn’t appreciate enough when I was in school. I have a much greater appreciation for it now and wish I had absorbed more of the subject earlier in life. Thankfully, it is never too late to learn more!