Published on January 21, 2019
Television graduate and top meteorologist awarded NAIT’s Alumni Award of Excellence
Thinking back on his career, CTV Edmonton chief meteorologist Josh Classen remembers an idiom his father used frequently when talking about goaltending: “You’ve got to be lucky to be good and good to be lucky.”
“I was more lucky than good as a goaltender,” admits Classen, who still plays ice hockey recreationally on a Morinville team. It was also thanks to a little bit of luck that Classen (Radio and Television ’96) discovered his calling as a meteorologist.
Starting his career
Not long after graduating from NAIT, Classen found himself back in his hometown Lloydminster, where he accepted a position covering weather and agriculture. Although he had originally wanted to be a sports anchor, Classen immediately became hooked on weather forecasting. As soon as he picked up the pointer stick, he started emulating legendary weather presenter Bill Matheson, who inspired Classen’s career early on.
Classen then moved to Saskatoon and spent the next 5 years growing his experience while studying meteorology online at Mississippi State University. Despite his busy schedule, he even cut a rap album – a passion since his youth – with his group, the Worldwide Wordsmiths.
Following a stint at Global Toronto, Classen returned to Edmonton as chief meteorologist for CTV Edmonton, where he’s been for the past 14 years. He also shows up regularly on Bell Media radio stations to provide Edmontonians with the latest weather updates.
Forecasting in real time
The climate in Edmonton is not without its challenges, Classen says, especially in the spring and fall months where the weather can change on a dime. Fortunately, meteorological technology has advanced to the point where fluctuating weather has become easier to predict, thanks to computer software that is more accurate and faster – for example, forecasting processes that used to take hours can now be done on the fly.
However, the advent of better technology is both a blessing and a curse, explains Classen. Viewers now have increased access to the Internet and social media, which means that there is a much higher demand for real-time weather coverage. Classen, to his credit, has embraced these changes and boasts nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter while also managing the station’s weather app. He’s up at the crack of dawn to make sure all his channels are up-to-date, which also includes a blog, Facebook and Google+ pages.
“We’re on so many more platforms than we were on before,” Classen says. “Before it was all just about broadcasting and building towards that six o’clock newscast. The joke used to be that you get paid for talking for 5 minutes a day. I’m still only talking for about 5 minutes a day, but I’m producing a lot more content than I was before.”
Inspiring fellow weather enthusiasts
The Classen family has a long tradition of becoming educators: his brother, mom, dad and grandfather are all teachers. As a broadcaster, he, too, is a teacher as he shares his knowledge with his viewers, as well as the next generation of weather enthusiasts.
At CTV, Classen runs a weekly segment ‘Weather Watchers’ as well as a monthly session at the Telus World of Science in the IMAX Theatre for class field trips, where he teaches grade-school students from the Edmonton region about the weather, including what causes seasons and the water cycle, such as precipitation and evaporation. ‘Weather Watchers’ has run for over 10 years, and in 2017 alone, Classen will have visited more than 80 classrooms.
During his presentations, Classen encourages young people who are interested in broadcasting to take advantage of improved technology and use their social media channels, such as YouTube and Twitter, to experiment with broadcasting. Classen has not forgotten the education he received at NAIT – in fact, he mentors many of its Radio and Television students, providing them with weather broadcasting tips for NAIT Newswatch.
Alumni Award of Excellence 2017
To recognize his significant contributions to his profession as a meteorologist and broadcaster and his dedication to mentoring future students, Josh Classen was presented the NAIT Alumni Award of Excellence in May 2017 – the first time the award has ever been presented.