Friday, September 16, 2011

The real Weather Guy

I'd planned to write today about the coming winter's weather, but there'll be another day for that.

Instead, today's topic is a person whose work you had read for years in the Observer, but you never saw his name. I don't know if he considered himself a weather geek, but I did. For true weather geeks, that's not a title we hand anybody. It's earned.

I came to the Observer more than 33 years ago, and a year or two after I arrived, I realized we'd hired a clerk named Joe Sovacool. The term "clerk" doesn't describe everything he did. Basically, Joe managed the Newsroom.

He shuffled phone calls to the right people, answered the phones and received thousands of tips from the public, passed those tips to reporters, and did dozens of other things.

He knew a lot about the Charlotte region and a lot about the journalism business. If a reporter or editor asked him for advice, they'd get a good, sound answer.

Joe also handled the Observer's weather page. A lot of the information we publish on that page comes to us automatically, but it wasn't that way 20 or 25 years ago. We had a weather wire machine, and Joe accumulated and compiled the high and low temperatures, forecasts, tide information and everything else on the page.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered Joe actually enjoyed meteorology.

He understood the peculiarities of Carolinas weather, and he taught me a few things over the years. About a decade ago, when I started writing about the weather, I would run ideas past him. We'd talk about a topic -- an approaching storm, a dry spell, memorable snowfalls.

"Are you gonna write about it?" he'd ask.

Joe cared about that weather page. It was merely one of many things he did, but he took this whole journalism accuracy thing seriously. He knew people looked for temperature information and when high tide was coming.

Back in September 1989, when I was working in our Monroe bureau, I called Joe to talk about Hurricane Hugo, which was then near Puerto Rico. We agreed that Hugo seemed headed for the Carolinas, and we talked about the possibility that it might affect Charlotte.

"Are you gonna write about it?" he asked. I didn't. Back then, I wasn't a weather writer.

Joe died Thursday evening, and all of us at the Observer -- whether we've been there one year or 33 -- will miss his friendship.

To me, he's the Observer's real Weather Guy.

And this time, I'm writing about it.


Rob Knapp said...

Very sad news, and a worthy tribute. It's hard to imagine the newsroom without Joe.

Si Cantwell said...

I was a night metro clerk at the Observer when Joe joined the staff. He was smart and funny. He'll be missed.

Anonymous said...

Never met Joe but after reading that I wish I head. RIP, Joe.

Sherri said...

Bingo, Steve. :)

He hired me to help with the weather page on the weekends. He made darn sure I knew how to "do the weather."

Was also the best "bossman." Looked out for his team and stood up for us.

To date, he's still the only newsroom person who knows the comics page, specifically chess. I cringe when I take that call, "You need to correct that. That's not the right move!" Only Joe knew "technical" chess.

Godspeed, Bossman.

T. Bennett said...

Great column and so true!

Dan said...

Great job Steve.

Joe's Sister-SUE said...

Just a note of thanks for a very special insight, and for all of the "commenters" that understood exactly what you were talking about-weather AND otherwise!

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