Most journalists and meteorologists use social media to connect with their audiences by opening up about their lives or taking viewers behind the scenes. But meteorologist Rick Lantz of Boise, Idaho’s KTVB takes the interactive digital medium one step further: he lets viewers guide him on what to say on the nightly newscast.
Just before the 10 p.m. news on the Tegna-owned NBC affiliate, Late Night with Lantz pops up on Facebook Live. There, Lantz has a 10-minute discussion with viewers about that night’s upcoming weather report — a luxury that no meteorologist could experience on TV.
“You only have about three, four minutes…to do your weather [on TV.] And you have to cover certain basics,” Lantz said. “So what [Facebook Live] does beforehand is help me find out what’s on people’s minds, what they want to know about the forecast…[and] I can adjust accordingly.”
Adjust accordingly? That’s right: Lantz isn’t afraid to change his TV forecast in response to what he learns on Facebook Live just minutes before air. That’s because predicting the weather, especially in places like Boise, is hard.
“[The] problem that we have as meteorologists, and especially in mountain communities…is the fact that we’d like to think [the weather] can be nailed down totally,” Lantz said. “But there’s just all kinds of models…on what’s going to take place with a forecast. And to be real specific about it, it’s kind of difficult to do.”
So rather than project omniscience as is the usual practice, Lantz has asked his Facebook Live viewers if they want a definite forecast or all the possibilities.
“The purpose of that was to experiment a little bit to see if instead of me just being emphatic — with a higher probability of inaccuracy — would they rather know the entire spectrum of what this weather could do. And it turned out that that’s what they wanted,” Lantz said.
And that’s what he delivered a few minutes later on that night’s newscast.
Even the name Late Night with Lantz wasn’t his idea — he asked for suggestions from the audience. The Facebook Live show has been going on for two and a half years now. The show’s viewership fluctuates from the low hundreds to thousands — but the show’s impact goes much farther when the online viewers influence what Lantz says on TV.
“I think [Facebook Live] is really working out well,” Lantz said. “What I’m finding is that a lot of people just like to be able to talk to their local meteorologists. It makes it more personable for them, and I think they get more informed.”
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