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FishbowlNY Investigates the New Crop of TV ‘Meteorologists’

We told you about the weekend weather changes at WCBS, where veteran meteorologist John Marshall was ousted in favor of Katie Fehlinger earlier this month.

A FishbowlNY Investigation explores if Fehlinger is actually a meteorologist. 

It’s not a new question; just the names have been changed. But with more than 30 comments questioning WCBS for dropping Marshall, we looked deeper.

Fehlinger is listed on screen as meteorologist at WCBS where she does weekend morning forecasts, yet there appears to be a grey area for what constitutes a meteorologist. (It should be noted that on their website, Channel 2 refers to Fehlinger as a “weekend weathercaster,” while colleague Lonnie Quinn is the “chief weathercaster.” The website says Elise Finch and John Elliott are the station’s only meteorologists.)

The blond Fehlinger, who was part of the Asylum.com’s “Hottest Weather Girls” countdown, spent the past few years online at Accuweather.com.

According to her LinkedIn page, Fehlinger is “scheduled” to complete her meteorology courses at Mississippi State University this year. Some industry veterans say, technically, that means Fehlinger “is not a meteorologist yet.”

Separately, FishbowlNY has learned that because Mississippi State offers online courses, it is looked down upon by “purists” of the broadcast meteorology community. 

Regardless, can a person be recognized as a meteorologist whether they obtain accreditation or schooling?

The answer appears to be yes. The American Meteorological Society set the standard in 1990 saying, “This specialized education would be a bachelor’s or higher degree in meteorology, or atmospheric science, consistent with the requirements set forth…”

But, a grey area persists.

“There are some cases where an individual has not obtained a B.S. or higher degree in meteorology, but has met the educational requirements … and has at least three years professional experience in meteorology.”

The latter would apparently fit for Fehlinger, despite what her brethren says.

By contrast, newly hired WABC-TV weekend morning meteorologist Amy Freeze was a chief meteorologist in Chicago. Wikipedia lists Freeze as one of first 20 women in the world to receive a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM) from the American Meteorological Society.

Freeze also, as we reported last week, has degrees in Meteorologist (also from Mississippi State) and Communications (Brigham Young University), and a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies.

Certification is certainly nice on the resume, if not the TV screen, but having the “seal” is not mandatory.

The AMS doesn’t pronounce anyone as a meteorologist. FishbowlNY has learned that the AMS, after handing the seal to many people that were, perhaps, more interested in looks than low pressure systems, halted the procedure.

Instead, the next generation of would-be meteorologists face the tougher CBM test.

Just in case you were wondering, WNBC weekend weather forecaster Domenica Davis also got her meteorological degree from Mississippi State. She joined WNBC in July, replacing Marshall who was at Channel 4 for 12 years. Look for Marshall to resurface this weekend on WPIX doing some fill-in evening weather anchoring.

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