As the Public Affairs Director for NOAA's National Weather Service, Chris Vaccaro is usually on the leading edge of NWS news stories, communicating forecasts, meteorological science, and agency policy to the public. Before stepping into the director's role, Vaccaro earned an award from the National Association of Government Communicators for his work on the press conferences announcing the outlook for the record-setting 2005 hurricane season. Prior to joining NOAA, he was assistant weather editor at USA TODAY. He has a master's degree in communications from the University of Oklahoma.
You seem to have always had dual interests in physical sciences and communications. Had you always planned to combine them somehow into a career?
It was an evolutionary kind of journey. I had an interest in journalism, being kind of a news junkie, reading The New York Times when I was in high school, and taking concentrated classes in journalism and creative writing. I was the editor of the school paper. Another interest was also weather. But I never thought about weather as a career until I started becoming more familiar with people in the business, such as when my family finally got cable in the early 1990s: I watched the Weather Channel and became a storm spotter for the National Weather Service. Then I started to think, “Oh I can do this as a career.”
What helped to steer my career direction was that all through school, I had a number of internships, including one at a local National Weather Service station out on eastern Long Island, New York, and one with a broadcast meteorologist at News 12 Long Island. Then, when I was at Linden State College in Vermont, USA TODAY came up looking for an intern. I got the internship and had the opportunity to work in both journalism communications and meteorology, and that internship led to a position at USA TODAY.
KIMBRA CUTLIP is a freelance writer and former assistant editor for Weatherwise.