Alpena Weatherman Gets Hip with Forecast, Calls Lower Michigan ‘Dirty South’ [VIDEO]
Tom Murphy works at the smallest TV station in Michigan, and he just may have found his calling, blending weather with pop culture references. “As the great poet and philosopher Nelly once said, ‘It’s gettin’ hot in here,’” Murphy quips as he artfully forecasts unseasonably high temps. Although I believe he points at Flint when he refers to “Michigan’s Dirty South.” Ouch.
Growing up near Alpena, which is home to Murphy’s employer, Channel 11, I saw a lot of young broadcasters get their start at the CBS affiliate. But Murphy may be the first to do a Salsa dance on camera, or weave a Snoop Dogg reference into a forecast.
Television in a small market has a great deal of, um, charm. Local residents of Northeast Michigan will tell you the long-standing joke about the station is the origin of its call letters, WBKB: “We Barely Know Broadcasting.” But there’s something quirky and delightful about watching kids, fresh out of broadcast school, working at a tiny station, with a tiny budget, in a tiny town.
Hardly anyone stays long. Some quickly discover it’s not what they expected. (My polite way of saying, “They have no business being on TV.”) Others improve rapidly, and graduate to a larger station in a bigger city. (ABC-12’s Larry Elliott and Terry Camp both cut their baby-broadcast teeth in Alpena, many years ago.)
Small-town TV even has its own drinking game! And as a young adult I may have participated in this a time or two. The rules are simple: Watch the 11:00 pm news, and whenever someone mispronounces a word or stumbles through a sentence, take a drink. When there’s a technical error, such as a microphone not turned on, or a video that won’t play, finish your beer. The buzz would easily last through ‘The Tonight Show,’ well into the late movie.
24-year-old Tom Murphy said that he began to rely on his personality when he was doing weather on a fill-in basis, and lacked real meteorological knowledge. In a phone interview with Cars 108 he said, “I couldn’t answer [viewers’] questions about clouds, and high pressure systems, and I didn’t want to pretend I had the answers, so I just decided to be myself out there.” Murphy hopes that as his career advances, he’ll have an opportunity to continue to let his personality be a part of his broadcasts.
Although his video was only intended to show off some of his wackier TV moments to friends and family in his home state of New Jersey, it’s been viewed over 400,000 times on YouTube. He also notes that his style has drawn a little criticism, mainly from older viewers who don’t care for his pop culture references, especially rap music. “That kind of stuff doesn’t exactly tailor to that demographic,” he said.
But who can resist a kooky weatherman?
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