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Hutch Johnson’s New Era in Local Weather Reporting

Forecasting a New Era in Weather Reporting

If you’re local to the FM area, you probably know who Hutch Johnson is—a local TV news personality who served as Valley News Live’s chief meteorologist for 16 years before leaving the local station this past fall. Now, Hutch is delivering his own type of weather reporting, continuing his passion and serving a community that still eagerly awaits his reports.

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For 16 years, Hutch Johnson was a familiar face on local television, guiding viewers through sunshine and storms with equal coolness. Last fall, he began a new venture, trading the broadcast studio for a digital platform, similar yet vastly different. Beginning in November 2023, he began hosting live streamings on Facebook and posting YouTube videos with his local weather reports—aptly calling it, “Hutch’s Weather.” Through these interactive, engaging live videos, Hutch has created a dedicated community, and he continues to grow that community and support through tailored, viewer-centric weather reporting. 

Journey from Broadcast to Digital

Growing up in Montana, Hutch’s passion for weather was evident early on.

“I always had a love for weather,” he said, adding that his strengths in math and science outweighed grammar and English. Post-college, with a degree in meteorology and a minor in broadcasting, Hutch explored various industry niches before finding his true calling in TV weather reporting.

“Once I got there, I felt like it was what I had been put here to do,” he said.

His broadcast career journey took him from Missouri to Bismarck and finally to Fargo, where he became a staple in many local homes for over a decade. As his TV broadcasting career neared its end last year, Hutch faced a pivotal decision. While he was offered other TV opportunities at the time, those clashed with his desire to stay in the Fargo area.

“I have one kid left in high school, so making sure he can finish without moving or dad leaving is something that’s really [important],” he said.

His personal commitment, combined with inspiration, spurred this innovative idea of launching an online weather service. Hutch began researching and laying the groundwork for his digital transition.

The Digital Model

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In the fast-paced world of media, Hutch’s transition from traditional broadcast meteorology to an online platform is a career shift that is representative of shifting consumer habits—people want their news on their own time.

“I saw a few meteorologists who left [TV] and start companies where they do a little radio, a little newspaper, and some online stuff—a lot of meteorologists will start a web page or have a blog or something like that,” he said—but Hutch understood there could be more to this.

His vision was based on his experience in television and the role he established for himself within the community. He can see and understand people’s habits, and this perspective allowed Hutch to tailor a model that aligns with modern lifestyles—efficient, accessible, and interactive.

“Sometimes people are still at the office, getting ready for their night,” he said. “They want to know, as they’re leaving the office, what’s going on. They don’t have time to sit down for a half-hour show. So, that’s the model that I thought of, and after talking to some colleagues, co-workers, and friends; doing a little networking and trying to see if it was a practical idea or not—I decided to go for it,” he said.

But, this reinvention required more than a just physical move.

The Transition

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“For the first couple of months, that’s all I did—research,” he said. Setting up a studio at home and learning the intricacies of online broadcasting were his top priorities. “Once I decided to make a go of it, I’ve worked harder doing that than I ever did in TV,” he admitted.

This hard work included constructing a professional studio in his home, developing graphics, and planning content strategies. It’s easy to spot Hutch’s dedication in his desire to bring both a professional and personal quality to online weather, differentiating his service from the standard ‘cut and paste’ weather forecasts.

And, on the fateful day of November 8, 2023, Hutch officially launched Hutch’s Weather online, and although his research-heavy days were behind him for a moment after that, he immediately began chatting with this viewers, cataloging and collecting information and feedback from each stream.

Challenges and Adaptations

And while there truly was more to this than just the physical move—that move was no walk in the park. Hutch’s shift from a well-equipped TV studio to a home-based digital platform brought a unique set of challenges, meaning he had to adapt both in technology and personal skill sets. Hutch had to learn the nuances of running a home studio, a stark contrast to the supported structure of a TV station.

“Every time the camera lights go on, somebody [at the station] is controlling the light level, the microphone level, or making sure my shot isn’t blurry,” he said. Going from that team-based environment in TV to a solo operation at home, Hutch found that he had to learn to multitask very quickly

“Now, I’m doing that in real time sitting in front of a camera at home,” he said. “Sometimes the camera gets blurry. I can’t say excuse me [and] run behind the camera to focus it. Sometimes I just have to put another graphic up and hope the camera refocuses.”

GreenScreen Hutch Johnson

This required Hutch to expand his technical expertise. “I’ve had mistakes where the mic wasn’t working right, and I had to shut down and restart,” he said, but having to deal with computer problems and learning new software became part and parcel of his daily routine

As a result, he’s developed some “Plan Bs” for certain instances, like having a backup computer available at all times—something he would only know from having been in a particular situation of needing one before.

Engagement & Experience

With this structure, one of the most significant changes for Hutch is the rhythm of weather reporting. Gone are the constraints of scheduled newscasts, replaced by the freedom to update his audience whenever necessary. Hutch was introduced to the importance of engagement by figuring out his streaming schedule.

“It’s been really cool asking viewers and people who follow, what works best for them, and then really listening to that,” he said. “I really didn’t know what my schedule was going to be, but I asked people, ‘When do you want the weather?’ And that’s how it’s evolved.”

Through the transition to his new platform and, of course, trial and error—Hutch has discovered that the key to success lies in that active engagement with his audience. He values, and almost even depends, on real-time feedback, integrating it directly into his broadcasts, which is something that’s not necessarily available in traditional TV meteorology.

When Hutch first launched his new venture, he had a healthy following, with about 35,000 followers on Facebook, which he accumulated over his 16 years on broadcast TV. Now, only about three months into his new venture, he sits at almost 50 followers! His YouTube, which obviously began at a mellow zero upon starting, now boasts 5,000 subscribers!

“On my Facebook Lives, I can watch [comments]… It’s like me taking a phone call in the middle of a weather cast on TV,” he said.

For example, he said to imagine this conversation, “Hey, good to hear from you, Sue, yes, it’s going to be pretty snowy on your route from Wadena to Fargo.” It’s a conversation that would feel pretty out of place if he were to take that call during a TV broadcast, but it’s a conversation that not only works well during live-streamed content—but is the exact content that is driving his audience and engagement numbers forward.

This conversation-like commentary proves crucial, especially when weather conditions change rapidly, which we know tends to happen in our region often and when we least (yet always) expect it. This allows Hutch to provide timely, curated updates that are more aligned with real-world events and viewer needs.

“[Viewers] will post a question while I’m doing the weather, and I see many of them, not all but I try to look for them, and I’ll address it right there. I think that helps them, and it helps me know where my audience is because it’s changing ll the time,” Hutch said, Hutch believes his views can range from Dickinson, ND to Rochester, MN—especially if people in those areas travel to or through the FM area.

Hutch’s digital platform has evolved into more than just a source for weather updates; it’s become a community hub where viewers not only get their weather information but also feel heard and valued by the meteorologist delivering it.

Looking Forward

Workstation Hutch Johnson

Looking ahead, Hutch is filled with optimism and ambition. His goals to expand his digital footprint and provide a more robust online presence begin with a step he has just recently taken.

“This year is going to be [about] establishing enough of a service to my advertisers that I can gain some more sponsorships to keep going,” he said. “Right now I’ve got enough to keep going, but I really want to keep it going to grow. As new people and businesses in the community decide that this is something that they see growing, this is a way they could get their message out there, and that they want to be a part of Hutch’s new venture, then, I’m going to be able to say goals A, B, and C can be met—But, those goals are vague.” 

That overarching goal is to create a sustainable model that not only supports his venture but also allows for growth and expansion. Seeing the importance of forming partnerships with local businesses, he hopes to create a mutually beneficial relationship, then he will work on some more detailed goals.

Beyond technology and business, Hutch is passionate about continuing his community engagement, especially in education, and is eager to inspire the next generation of meteorologists. A large part of that plan involves reconnecting with the community through educational initiatives.

“I made hundreds of school visits over the years and teachers are still contacting me,” Hutch said. “There is a way for me to do that in my day and time and give that back to the community by visiting schools and planting little seeds because I remember being that student in a classroom when the local meteorologist came in. So, I want to start something with that up again.”

In keeping with the fast-paced changes in digital technology, Hutch is also hoping to continuously advance his technical skills, like animation graphics for his reports. This goal not only involves personal skill development but also potentially collaborating with experts who can assist in this area.

Hutch also shared plans to develop a more robust and user-friendly website, something in the works that he’s excited to launch soon—and something that he realizes is crucial in providing a central, easily accessible hub for weather forecasts and information.

But, Hutch’s main goal remains the same as it has—his dedication to serving his community with the same passion and professionalism that have defined his career thus far.

Supporting Hutch’s Endeavor

How can you support Hutch? The community can simply support him through engagement, from utilizing Facebook’s ‘stars’ feature to joining his lives to sharing his story with your network. Recognizing the unique value of his platform, local businesses can reach out to establish partnerships—a “sponsorship” endeavor that will help to propel him into the sustainable business plan he hopes to kick start this year while supporting the local business.

Hutch Johnson’s story is another example of local adaptability and innovation in this ever-evolving media landscape, and he wants the community to know—he’s still here.

“I’m still here in Fargo, working,” Hutch said, as he explained he often gets questions about where he is working now. People will see his content online and assume he left the city, but we know that is not the case—he’s just on a new platform.

As he continues to navigate and shape this new chapter, Hutch remains a trusted and familiar figure in local weather forecasting, now accessible with just a click.

Check it out yourself on Facebook at /HutchJohnsonMeterologist or on YouTube at @HutchsWeather24-7

Written by Geneva Nodland

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