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Weathering Your Fears 101

Retired TV Meteorologist Teaches Students the Art of Public Speaking

By Sala Levin ’10


John T. Consoli

John T. Consoli

Longtime TV weatherman Tony Pagnotti thinks of himself, above all else, as a communicator—a storyteller. For decades, the stories he told were about snowfall totals and flash floods, hurricane warnings and air-quality alerts, and sometimes, plain old sunny days.

After 32 years of sharing the forecast in Baltimore, Pagnotti retired in August and this semester began focusing solely on his other full-time job: teaching undergraduate students at the University of Maryland how to communicate better.

“All these years I’ve communicated through the medium of TV, but no matter what field, students have to know, ‘How am I going to be the best at expressing what I know?’” says Pagnotti.

Pagnotti got his start as a news anchor and reporter after graduating from Boston University in 1976, but harbored a desire to be a television meteorologist. “I was always fascinated as a kid by the weather,” he says. “I did a lot of my own research in school, and my science projects were always about weather.”

Watching other TV meteorologists gave Pagnotti insight into what separated the good ones from the bad. “If you can’t, in three minutes or less, both entertain your audience and talk to them in terms just like any other subject, they’re not going to understand it.”

After taking trainings and workshops offered by the National Weather Service, Pagnotti landed a full-time weather position in Baltimore in 1985, first at WMAR ABC 2 and then at WBFF Fox 45. Pagnotti, known for his jovial disposition and—among his colleagues—for singing before taping his segments, covered community stories too, a combination that satisfied his interests in weather and human issues. “I’ve had my share of hurricanes and blizzards, but the highlights have been where I’ve had the opportunity to meet everyday people,” he says.

He earned a master’s in contemporary communication at the College of Notre Dame in 2011, and a year later, Pagnotti joined Maryland’s Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA) to teach oral communication, one of the university’s general education requirements. He juggled the course with a weekend position at Fox 45, working seven days a week to combine his twin passions, weather and teaching.

“Students have a certain respect for him because he has been a practitioner,” says Glori Hyman, IAA director. “He’s not just a theoretical researcher.”

Pagnotti told The Baltimore Sun in July that he learned last year that his weather position was going to be shifted to full time on weekdays. “That helped me make my decision easy to leave since I love teaching college students,” he said.

In class at the beginning of the semester, Pagnotti started off by acknowledging the elephant in the room: fear of public speaking. “If you’re not anxious, you might not have a pulse,” he told students. He tried to take the edge off by emphasizing his goal to “take the fear out and put the fun in.”

His aim, he says later, is to translate his on-camera experience into helpful advice for students.

“At the end of the semester, students tell me they now feel more confident in their communicating abilities. That’s what makes it all worth it for me,” Pagnotti says.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.