Ginger Zee: ‘That Person You See on Morning TV Smiling and Happy Hasn’t Always Been That Way’

By A.J. Katz 

Writing her memoir was some of the best medicine Ginger Zee could have asked for.

“It ended up being kind of a closure to my therapy,” ABC’s chief meteorologist told us in an interview.

In Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I Am One, Zee, 36, details covering the world’s most severe weather and biggest natural disasters while dealing with a crippling battle with depression.

“I don’t think you fully get away from something like the years of depression that I went through. But you definitely have better moments, healing moments, and this book represents one of those moments,” said Zee.

We caught up with the Good Morning America meteorologist to talk about her move to ABC, giving birth to her second child, and why she wanted to write her memoir:

Zee: I wanted to write a story was about my struggles with depression and mental health. It’s an issue that needs to be talked about more. These stories kind of weave back and forth between my own mess and disaster that I’ve created in my personal life, to this crazy career that’s happening where I’m finding myself going from Hurricane Katrina, into wildfires, into floods. I hope that at the end of this story, people will say that we can be better to each other, and understand a little more about each other because even that person who you see on morning TV smiling and happy hasn’t always been that way. If I can help a young person, perhaps a recent college graduate, because that’s really the time when I had the biggest struggles, and they can gain a little perspective from this book, then I will be so happy.

 TVNewser: Talk about your journey from local news to network TV.

The network is a completely different world. My early experience at PBS (WYIN) in Indiana, and all the way up was crucial to getting me to the point I’m at today. I think that the trials and tribulations of being at a PBS station, a No. 4 NBC affiliate (WEYI) in mid-Michigan, at a powerhouse in Grand Rapids (WOOD), and having those different experiences as a reporter, an anchor, and a meteorologist in these different places brought me, not just in my forecasting and storm chasing abilities, but also in my storytelling.

I always had becoming a meteorologist as my goal, from the second I decided while I was in school just to study meteorology. I didn’t study broadcasting in school, but I did a lot of internships and I dedicated myself so much so that I made my email password: “Todayshow10” because I wanted to be on the Today Show by 2010. So when I was able to fulfill my goal and fill in on the Today Show and on MSNBC, it opened so many other doors.

TVNewser: How do you prepare for each GMA broadcast?

I forecast the night before and I look at whatever the headline weather will be. I look at the topography and the micro-climates, and I start thinking about what I can bring to that 30 seconds that will give people a little bit more, and will connect them to it. How do I get someone in Nebraska to care about much snow is falling in the Cascades? How do I attract them to that story? How do we make the science matter? I think visually, it’s very easy. You have wildfire videos and you don’t even need to say anything, the reaction comes naturally. But also, I don’t take it as just that. I want to give people more. I want to tell them at what elevation the wind gusts to above 70 mph, versus if you’re in a lower area and you have 35-45 mph winds. That matters. So, it’s forecasting at night, and then in the morning I have a team of meteorologists and we get together to debate how the forecasts will be played out and then we’ll go and plan the show.

TVNewser: Morning TV ratings have been declining in recent years. Do you pay attention to that? Does it come up in meetings at all and impact types of stories you want to cover?

I pay attention. I read your site! It’s there, and you’d be crazy not to look at it. Yes, it does matter. But I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily top of mind. We don’t talk about ratings amongst ourselves. I’ve never really had a conversation with Robin [Roberts] or Michael [Strahan] or someone who has said, “hey, did you see those ratings?” Ratings are important, but at the same time, I think the feeling and the product of what we’re putting out is most important. I have worked at so many places at so many different levels, and it’s so great to win. The part that makes me feel the best is when someone says: “I watch you guys every morning.” “Our family has watched your show forever.” “My daughter wants to become a meteorologist because of you.” That’s what I hang my hat on.

TVNewser: The conversation around harassment inside the workplace is front and center right now. Have you ever felt the need to speak to a superior about an uncomfortable workplace situation?

I have been so fortunate that in my career life, I have not run into this. Since the #MeToo campaign came out though, seeing my friends who are accountants, who are who are gym instructors, it doesn’t matter where, it seems that harassment is everywhere. It’s rampant and it’s disgusting. Even guy friends of mine have had their female bosses be inappropriate, sit on their laps, things like that. I have been so fortunate to work in places with extremely responsible and respectful people. Perhaps it’s luck at this point, but I do feel lucky.

TVNewser: When is the baby due? Do you have a name picked out yet?

No name picked out yet, but we do have some names ready. We waited until Adrian was born because I wanted to see him first. We’re doing the same this time around.