During Dave Cocchiarella’s time with News 13 and now WESH, he has seen many weather conditions, ranging from severe hurricanes to our run-of-the-mill summer afternoon thunderstorms. However, the best weather days for the meteorologist are the sunny ones in the 70s that showcase why Central Florida is such a great place to live.
In addition to his work in television broadcasting, Cocchiarella, a Winter Park resident, is able to share his passion for meteorology through teaching at Valencia College and Seminole State College. The opportunity to learn and share with students is part of his journey, which has taken him across the country and back to Central Florida.
The Journey into Television
I came into my profession by taking a circuitous route. My father was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in the late ‘60s with the Apollo program, and I was fortunate throughout my childhood that he was never transferred to another Air Force base. I remember our first home on base housing was only a few steps away from Hightower Beach, so my older brother immediately took up surfing. My father got him a longboard from Oceanside Surf Shop, and as a little brother will do, I followed him around. When he wasn’t using that board, I was. I was fortunate to grow up in Brevard County and get introduced to surfing at a young age. It’s been a lifelong passion for me.
I always remember having an internal interest in the way the ocean worked, but that didn’t manifest itself into a desire to study or make that a profession; it was just sort of an undercurrent throughout my life. I came to broadcasting when I moved to Hawaii, on the north shore of Oahu, for the explicit purposes of surfing and working in the industry.
I started doing surf forecasts for local radio stations in the early ‘90s, which led to more involvement in local radio and being part of a local morning show. That job led me back to full-time radio work in Florida, where a news director in Tallahassee asked me if I was interested in doing the weather. I said yes and started working at a local TV station in Tallahassee in the mid ‘90s. I already had a bachelor’s degree, but I went back to school at Mississippi State University and started my initial course work in meteorology, which subsequently led to me getting my master’s degree.
Once I landed in television, one of the primary motivations for me and my wife, Beth, was to move back to Central Florida. I was fortunate to get a job in 1998 with what was then known as Central Florida News 13 and worked there for 16 years before moving to WESH in 2015. It wasn’t a thoughtful progression, meaning I didn’t plan on becoming a meteorologist, but with my love of surfing and the way life works, one thing led to another and here I am.
Teaching the Future
I have a genuine passion for meteorological science and how and why the ocean moves the way it does. I’ve taken my master’s degree and used that to become an adjunct professor at both Valencia and Seminole State, where I teach meteorology, oceanography and earth science. I’m very passionate about that and really enjoy teaching because it gives me the opportunity to engage with fresh, young minds. Every time you teach something, you learn something, so every semester,
I learn something new about the ocean, atmosphere or the earth itself, and that’s what keeps me fresh.
Staying Prepared in the Professional Sector
I finished my master’s work in August of 2010, and I went online through Valencia College and hunted through to figure out what department would be the best fit. I sent an email to the college about halfway through August 2015, informing them I just got my master’s degree and was interested in teaching meteorology. About 15 minutes later, I received an email back, and essentially they asked if I could start on the 31st because they had a meteorology class that had been filled with students and then they lost the professor, so they actually had a specific need for somebody. One of the things I believe in broadcasting, that has always been the case, and I tell young people this when I’m asked how to get into broadcasting, is that often times the person standing in front of the news director when the job opens up is the person who gets the job. Being there, being involved… that’s just been a natural progression. That’s very much what happened with me and teaching; I just happened to be available at the moment Valencia really needed a professor.
The Importance of Credibility
I think credibility is the greatest measure of somebody in my industry, knowing the people who may be listening or watching at that time believe and have confidence in what you say. One of the things I teach my students when I talk about weather in broadcasting terms is all anybody really cares about is how the weather is going to affect them, so you have to put yourself in a role where you’re not trying to teach these high-level concepts about meteorology if you’re a weatherperson on air. You have to think about what viewers want to know. And what they want to know is how their kids need to be dressed, when they can have a picnic, what the surf is going to be like and if fishing conditions are going to be good or bad. I try to put myself in my viewers’ and listeners’ shoes when I think about what I’m saying and doing.
When I did radio, and when I do my on-air work now, I’m really doing it for the people in the room. I’m not trying to do it for nine counties in Central Florida. I’m trying to reach an individual, whether I can see them or not, and if I can reach that individual, I think I’ve reached that larger group.
“I think credibility is the greatest measure of somebody in my industry, knowing the people who may be listening or watching at that time believe and have confidence in what you say.” – Dave Cocchiarella