News & Politics

How the Capital Weather Gang Ended Up on WAMU

Photograph by Anthony Quintano, via Flickr.

Christmas came early for Washington-area weather enthusiasts Monday, when the dulcet voice of the Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow blasted out of their radios, delivering a morning forecast on WAMU.

That audio candy for weather nerds was a result of an experimental partnership between the radio station and the Washington Post‘s popular weather blog, WAMU programming manager Lettie Holman says. Under new general manager JJ Yore, WAMU is “assessing our content from top to bottom,” she says, with an “eye to expanding the audience and hopefully make it a little younger.” WRC meteorologist Tom Kierein delivered forecasts most mornings on WAMU until a partnership between those news organizations ended in early March, and since then hosts such as Matt McCleskey have been reading forecasts drawn from the National Weather Service and other sources. (Kierein and other WRC meteorologists now appear on WTOP under a partnership between the NBC affiliate and the all-news radio station.)

Samenow, Angela Fritz, Ian Livingston, and Dan Stillman will rotate WAMU duties, which currently call for two morning broadcasts and two in the afternoon. They may also work on packaged stories, including a series of explainers about weather events and reports about how climate change affects local weather.

“I think the audience we reach on the blog and the audience that listens to NPR in many ways overlap,” Samenow says. (WAMU is an NPR member station.) “There’s kind of a wonky, geeky audience on NPR, and that’s the type of audience that tends to read Capital Weather Gang.”

Capital Weather Gang members could also appear on WAMU productions like the Kojo Nnamdi Show and Metro Connection, as well as NPR programs like All Things Considered, Holman says.

As with the WRC deal, no money is changing hands with this partnership, which is starting as a three-month trial. Holman says she wants the Capital Weather Gang to “explain the why about the weather” and is “hoping to convey their online personality on air.”

That task, she says, “will be an evolution, I think.” Samenow, Fritz, Livingston, and Stillman have taken voice training from WAMU’s Karen Munson—she “gave us tips on pacing and tone just so we would be more comfortable,” Samenow says—and Holman and managing producer Brendan Sweeney are available for guidance on scripts. (Samenow says he doesn’t use a script.)

WAMU has a tight “clock” as it mixes its reports with NPR’s, and the Capital Weather Gang have to get their point across in segments that last 30-40 seconds. “That’s a challenge,” Samenow says. “One of the great benefits of presenting the weather on a blog is you can go as long as you want.” So they have to omit “some of the nuance, certainly some of the cool factoids.”

Both parties agree the cross-exposure is good for their respective brands: For WAMU, which is working with consultants as it undergoes its reexamination—it bagged afternoon traffic reports late last year, for instance—the partnership represents a run at a new, engaged local audience, and for the Capital Weather Gang, it’s a pipeline to a wider world. “It’s not just about appealing to weather geeks,” Samenow says, noting that group is “our base, they’re our core.”

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.