It’s gotten to the point where I can’t go anywhere without a viewer stopping me…whether I’m shopping for groceries at one of the local shoprites, waiting for my car to be serviced or flying into another state, there’s always someone who says “Are you NorEasterNick?”. My response is always the same – “It depends. Did he get the weather right? If so, yes. If not then I have no idea who that is.”. We both always get a chuckle. Honestly, it is the most humbling feeling in the world. It’s been quite the journey to get to where I am today but I wouldn’t trade the trials and tribulations I went through for anything – because they made me who I am.
My love affair with meteorology started during the historic blizzard of 1996. I was merely 4 years old. I was in awe. The fascination that washed over me as I watched my grandmother’s car disappear in a sea of white. It was incredible! From that day forward my eyes were glued to the TV. I’d watch The Weather Channel instead of cartoons on the weekends. My friends, both of them, thought I was crazy! “What is he doing?!” Now, truth be told, I was TERRIFIED of thunderstorms growing up. I’d hide under the bed – or better yet, BEG my grandmother to bring me to a casino or a mall or the police station…SOMEWHERE where I couldn’t hear or see the storms. My, how things have changed!
I think it was 2000. I was going into thed 3rd grade. Comcast (back then they weren’t evil) built a tv studio in a storage room at Brigantine Elementary and the school started a TV/Media program as a result. Of course I was one of the first people to sign up. I auditioned to do the morning announcements weather and the rest is history. I started out with a printed map on the wall that I’d stand in front of and point to every morning. The second year we got a but more advanced with the addition of a green screen and powerpoint graphics.
After a few years of doing that, I learned about the CBS-3 Kidcaster competition coming to local malls. My grandmother took me to audition and I ended up winning. Kathy Orr chose me out of thousands of kids to do the weather live with her up in Philly. What a feeling that was. Wow! It was at that moment I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to broadcast weather.
Now MOST stories are easy peasy from here. I mean I knew what I wanted to do basically out of the womb…there’s a bath you take to get there, right? Well…yeah…but not for me. I mentioned my gradmother. Charlotte raised me. We lived alone in Brigantine. She taught me everything I needed to know, cared for me and prepared me to take on the world unapologetically. Unforunately when I was 10, she was dianosed with alzhiemers, from that point forward *I* became *her* caretaker. I had to grow up really, really fast. I was afraid to tell anyone about the situation out of fear of being taken away by the state.
I learned to cook, clean, balance the budget and make sure we both stayed happy and healthy – stuff a kid shouldn’t have to do, but it was the situation that I was presented with and have to get through it. After a few years of doing that, her condition really deteriorated. She ended up selling our home and I would go on to live with my parents – people that really weren’t in my life. I was given away as a toddler because my mother had substance abuse issues. This is something I never understood and held against my mother for many, many years. We are working on our relationship to this day.
The situation with my parents was one I wasn’t used to. They didn’t have any money. My father did his best to work every day to put food on the table, my mother never worked. They lived in a small apartment in Hammonton. I slept on the floor in my mother’s bedroom. I started working at ShopRite pushing carts at 15 so I could pay $100 a week to live with them. I thought it unfair at the time – but you know what? All these years later, it actually taught me fiscal responsibility. If I worked late, there would rarely be food on the table for me when I got home. Those years were the hardest of my life.
My mother worshiped the ground my brother Matthew walked on (he passed away from a drug overdose 3 years ago). They had a very close relationship and to be transparent, a relationship I was envious of. While my grandmother was great, she wasn’t a very warm person. I never knew what it was like to have motherly love and I was jealous. Living with this dynamic I always felt like an outsider. I got in my head so much. I was down and depressed for a long time thinking something was wrong with me.
I count my lucky stars that I went to such an amazing school – Hammonton High – and got involved with the TV program because it set me on the trajectory to get to where I am today. Things got better when I realized I could turn all the negative energy into a fuel for success to overcome the obstacles that were thrown at me. Once I accepted that, I didn’t care about anything else. I became a happier person with a lazer focus on becoming successful. I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t know how.
I will never forget the influence Mr. Josey and Mr. Joseph had on my life. These two teachers pushed and pushed and pushed me to be better every day. I wasn’t a fan of eating lunch with everyone. I was a quiet person back then – actually, not much has really changed! So I’d sit in the TV studio and talk to them about life. They encouraged me to make a demo reel and send it out to TV stations. I thought they were crazy! I was 17! Who was going to hire me? Well, sure enough, NBC40 gave me a call and I was shell shocked. They hired me when I went in for an interview and I was doing professional TV on the weekends as a senior in high school. What?!
When it came time for college I was stuck. I was a straight A student but I didn’t want to move away. My grandmother was living in an assisted living facility in Hammonton and I’d see her nearly every day. I wouldn’t live with myself moving away. I was given a full ride to Penn State for meteorology, but I ended up declining. I would end up doing on-line school many years after the fact. Instead I chose to climb the corporate ladder at ShopRite. I moved from store to store and thought I’d spend the rest of my life doing that. NBC40 was great – but I was making barely $8 an hour and the demise was around the corner. TV40 taught me so much. I was there for almost 5 years before we got the bad news the Comcast (now evil) was not going to renew our affiliation which marked the end of decades of local news. I wasn’t going to move off to a different state…even though that’s what’s “supposed” to happen.
A couple months after TV40 shutdown, I got a call from a local businessman who was assembling a team of broadcasters to bring local news back. I met with him and was very interested in the concept. I was comfortable at ShopRite. I was a month into being 20 and I was making a killing…now granted I didn’t LOVE what I was doing and I was working 11 hours a day, but at least I didn’t have to worry about money. It took A LOT of convincing by this guy – but I gave in to what my heart was telling me and accepted the job to lead the weather department.
SNJ Today did amazing things. We provided POSITIVE local news to a community that needed it – but there were some misteps that we all acknowledge. I got a call a week before everyone else found out that we were closing. I was on my way to Key West…man, what a great time for a call like that, right? I automatically went into full freakout mode and had to take a serious step back to figure out what my next move would be. I didn’t want to go back into retail. I knew that. So, what next? Move to another market? Nah. I picked up the phone and started calling all our advertisers and asked them if they’d be interested in supporting a new local weather platform. Most of them jumped onboard and the day we closed down I started my own company.
It was a struggle for a good year and a half. I was constantly worried about “what if I lose a client?” that would have been a substantial part of my income. I had no safety net. I was living essentially paycheck to paycheck hoping it would work out. Well. It did. Almost 4 years later, here I am ready to expand in all directions. The launch of this new website is a gigantic step for me. This is what I envisioned several years ago but didn’t have the means to pull it off. Now I do. I am going to change how weather is done and once the model is perfected here in South Jersey, I will replicate it across the country with other broadcasters that are looking to leave TV and start over under their own terms.
It’s been a journey. The ups and downs and all arounds have thrown me for a loop a time or two but I am writing from a position much different than where I was at the start of the decade. If I could go back in time and talk to my teenage self, I’d tell me not to worry, with hard work, determination and grit, it all works out in the end – and that’s the main message I have when I visit schools and talk to organizations across the area. There is no secret to being successful. YOU are the only person who can tell yourself how far YOU can go. YOU are the only person that can hold YOU back. Tune out the noise and listen to your heart. YOU can do whatever YOU want to. I promise.
Where do I go from here? Well I don’t know the answer to that question. I know weather will always be a HUGE part of what I do…so I’m not walking away from that. I think I’m going to continue to build the NorCast brand and eventually bring it national. I am in the process of writing an autobigography which I hope is done by the Fall and I’d like to develop a cirriculum for severe weather safety. I thought about politics – but with how crazy the world is today? It’s just not appealing. I can help many more people in the private sector…and THAT is why I do what I do. To help people. This isn’t about me. This is about using my life experiences to make a difference in the lives of OTHERS. At the end of the day I’m not going to be judged by how many times I got the weather right or wrong, but rather by how many times I took an initiative to give back and help people.
Thank you all so much for the love and support throughout my career.