One thing NBC 5's morning weathermeister Byron Miranda will never be accused of is being shy. The outspoken and extremely charismatic meteorologist with the quick wit and the dashing smile finds many things to be glad about even at the early morning hour of 5 a.m. when he is ready for the cameras, weather forecast in hand and ready to present the good or dreadful details to a sleepy Chicago audience ready for the valuable advice he will undoubtedly impart.
You might say that Miranda has good reason to be happy, and thankful, as well. His current post at WMAQ-TV as the morning meteorologist has earned him a loyal local following. Similarly, Miranda's recent appearance as a stand-in weatherman on NBC's The Today Show in New York ( filling in for the beloved Al Roker ) has given the Alameda County, Calif., native a national visibility that would appear to carry an implied promise of better things to come. Miranda seems poised for both the challenges and the opportunities that seem imminent.
Byron Miranda began his career not in weather forecasting, but as an assignment editor at KTVU-TV in Oakland, Calif., in 1986. But long before he first stepped before the cameras, Miranda served the city of Oakland as a police officer. Additionally, Miranda worked as an air traffic controller while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
From 1988-'89, Miranda found himself at KRON-TV in San Francisco in various on-air positions and served as assignment editor/field producer at KCAL-TV in Hollywood from 1990-'92. A graduate of Cal State with a degree in communications, the effervescent Miranda successfully completed the broadcast meteorology program at Mississippi State University.
In 1994, Byron joined the on-air talent at CNN as a weather anchor responsible for global and national forecasts on the daily broadcasts. Concurrently, Miranda anchored the weather coverage for CNN Headline News, CNN Airport and CNN International.
Miranda joined forces with NBC 5 in August 1998 as a weather anchor. Currently, his forecasts are an integral part of the 5 a.m., 5:30 a.m., 6 & 11 a.m. newscasts.
A member of the National Weather Association, Miranda has reached out to children interested in meteorology with his revolutionary "Mini-Weather Watcher's Program," the first of its kind. The extremely popular ongoing program gives young people an opportunity to monitor and observe weather patterns in their respective neighborhoods and report their findings on television.
I thoroughly enjoyed my lively visit with Byron. Our interview proved to be both fun and immensely informative. By the way, Miranda just happens to have a si16ear-old daughter who is the apple of his eye.
DAVID GUARINO: Byron, I want to start out by saying that I'm not planning on asking you a lot of weather-related questions in this interview …
BM: Good! I'm glad that you're not going to. I basically take the dart board and I throw the darts and if it says 62 and cloudy, then that's your forecast. ( We both laugh )
DG: Were you always as outgoing and extroverted as you are today and as you appear on the air?
DG: There was never a time in your life when you were shy?
BM: No. I was always outgoing. From as far back as I can recall.
DG: What would you cite as a major faux pas that you've made in your career, Byron?
BM: Working at McDonald's. ( Byron laughs ) Yes, at 16 years of age I worked at McDonald's and let me tell you, in comparison to traffic control, police work, McDonald's was the toughest job I ever had.
DG: And probably one of the poorest paid …
BM: A buck eighty-five ( an hour ) . Aside from that, I think everything has led me to where I am.
DG: At one point in your career you were a cop. At yet another you were an air traffic controller. What was it like to be an air traffic controller?
BM: When I was in the Air Force, I had a drill instructor who was a racist, and that was confirmed to me on like, the second to the last day of basic training. When he was reading out orders, he yelled, "Miranda!" I said, "Sir!" He said, "You're one of them smart ones, ain't ya? You're going to be an Air Traffic Controller!" I thought, how difficult is it to hold up a couple of flashlights and direct a plane into the gate, right? ( We are both laughing ) I still had no clue. I got to Biloxi, Miss.; I went into the dorm area of the room where everyone congregated. This was late afternoon, so I suspected there'd be some people watching TV. Not so. Nobody was in sight; nobody was there. This was suspicious to me, I'm thinking, "Where are the people?" So I started to look around. And I went down one hallway and I saw a couple of doors slightly ajar. And I peered in and I looked. And the guys in the room are like over this gigantic book, pouring over this book. And I'm thinking, "What are they studying for? A couple flashlights and batteries; that's all you need, right?" I didn't find out until the next day, I swear to you, I didn't find out until the next day when I went to tech school. And I didn't understand why it was going to take six months to learn how to be an air traffic controller. I went to tech school and they gave us this 71.1065, which is the regulation handbook for air traffic across the country and around the world. You have to learn how to separate planes. When they told me this, I said, "Oh no, this is not for me. I don't want to do this."
So I went into the first sergeant's office, and I said, "I definitely don't want to do this air traffic control stuff. That's not for me. I thought it was something else." He looked at me and he said, "Miranda, what would you like to do?" I said, "I don't know, what do you have, Sarg?" He said, "Well, do you like to be in snow? You're from California. Do you like snow?" I said, "Not particularly." He said, "OK, you don't want to go to North Dakota and carry an M 16 where it's like 30 below zero on the flight line." I said, "No, I don't want that." He said, "Do you like to cook?" Well, I'm a bad cook. He said, "Well, get your ass out of my goddamn office. Either you'll do this ( be an air traffic controller ) or you'll be a cook or you'll be a security guard." So for the first time in my life, I had to find myself. And I made it through Air Traffic Control School. I did four years of it, I had plenty of Excedrin pills in my pocket, and I got out as soon as I could.
DG: In looking at your competitors ( ABC, CBS ) , do you feel that you've made the best choice you could make in coming here ( to NBC 5 ) ?
BM: This ( NBC ) was the best station for me, one, because of the management. In my contract there's always the possibility of me coming or going. But, even if I left tomorrow, David, I would still say that this was the best management team ( and there have been 14 that I've been under ) that I've ever worked for. Frank Whittaker, Phyllis Schwartz was here and now she's gone, she was great. Vickie Burns, Larry Wert; they're good people. And that's the reason I came here. I didn't know about Art ( Norman ) and Nesita ( Kwan ) and all the other great people and Mark ( Suppelsa ) and Warner ( Saunders ) and all those people behind the scenes, I didn't know anything about them. Because I hadn't seen them, I wasn't exposed to them. I was at lunch at the Sheraton with three people. I was with Frank ( Whittaker ) , Phyllis ( Schwartz ) and Larry ( Wert ) . And the impression I got sitting down at lunch, breaking bread with them was, these are good people. Regardless of business, you know, sometimes things happen and it's not personal. I mean they may have to make decisions to keep or to let me go or to promote or not to promote, or I might make a decision to leave or do whatever because maybe I don't want to get up in the morning. Regardless of that, I knew sitting at that table that I would still like these people even after the business end of it was over. And that's the truth. And then when I got inside the station, these are great people; the producers in the morning and the afternoon. All the people behind the scenes are great people. I have Sandy our director say hi to people on the air because I want to pay homage to him because he does an excellent job. And then Art, Nesita, Dawn ( DeSart ) , we all get along. When I work the afternoons and evenings I have fun with Warner ( Saunders ) , with Allison ( Rosati ) , with Marion ( Brooks ) and Mark ( Suppelsa ) . And believe me, David, it's better to be surrounded by good people than to be working for ( and I'm not talking about ABC ) , they're No. 1. I don't mean this at all about ABC. I'd rather work for a No. 2 station with good people as opposed to working at a No. 1 station with a bunch of jerks. So I made the right choice to come here at the time. It's up to God where I go from here; if I stay in Chicago or whatever.
DG: What did you think of the fact that NBC was the only network station to have a float in this year's ( 2001 ) Gay Pride Parade?
BM: Why were we the only ones?
DG: Well, you were. You were the only network station to be represented at the parade. And Nesita Kwan was on that float …
BM: Yeah, she told me she got lost! It's peculiar that we were the only ones to have a float, I thought everybody ( the other networks ) had one. And you know, that starts at the top, David. It starts with Larry ( Wert ) and that's great that we are participating. That speaks for our commitment ( at NBC ) to diversity, I don't see any reason why the other stations weren't there, well, I can't speak for them … . But it's a parade! We ( at NBC ) do parades! Why would we differentiate between a Gay Pride Parade versus a St. Patty's Day Parade, for instance? Parades are parades, and there are folks there who should be recognized. And there are viewers there, and they want to see some of the on-air talent from the stations represented there.
DG: I just happen to think it was great that NBC was represented.
BM: Well Larry Wert's like that, and he makes the top decisions regarding these kinds of things. He's a good man.
DG: Byron, what is it like today, at this point in time, being an African American meteorologist and TV personality? Have you encountered problems with prejudice in the community and in the industry in general?
BM: Oh, well, it's not going to go away! Now if someone realizes that I'm "that TV Guy," then all of a sudden I'm not a Black guy. But if they don't know who I am, then as I told my daughter, "my color always precedes me." You can feel it. It's not something that you can necessarily define or put into words, but you feel it when people look at you in a certain way. And that's not going to change. America was founded on slavery. The slavery mentality exists to this day. For some reason, there has to be this feeling that you have to be better than the next person. You know, you have to have something over the next person, because of the way that this country was founded, and it continues. I don't see it going away for a long time. [ In ] Paris, you walk down the street and you just don't feel any of that. And as soon as I got back here to the U.S., I felt it. As soon as I got off the plane. It's just a look. You walk off the ramp into the tunnel, and someone looks at you, and you know the look. You feel it, immediately. It's just, what a difference, but that's reality coming back home. But can I complain? You know, I can't complain, God has been good to me. I mean, I'm afforded the luxuries that most people are never afforded in life. So, I'm not complaining about where I am now. But things have not changed; in fact I think racism is more rampant now than it ever has been.
DG: How do feel about racism in Chicago?
BM: Well, see, most people recognize me now. Which comes from the fact that a lot of people get up early in the morning. So, again, I'm afforded different luxuries: I go into a restaurant and I can get seats faster than others, I'm taken care of. People are quite nice to me. So I haven't had any problems here, per say. But, outside of Chicago, it's the same old stuff. And it's not going to change. People should be judged on their character and how they treat others, Mandela said that. And that's how people should be dealt with, but that's not how it is here ( in the U.S. ) . When I was [ in the police force ] , one of my good friends was gay, and some people thought he was gay and they didn't want to associate with him. And I said, "What's the deal here? If someone was born with a different sexual orientation than you, big deal. He's not hitting on you. Why do you have a problem with that?" He was a heck of a cop, in fact he was one of the guys that I would turn to if I knew I was going to get into a fight or I was going to be in a hairy situation. He didn't back down. He didn't run away. So, you judge people on how they treat you. That's it. That's how it should be. That's what God says; everyone's equal. No one's better than anyone else. It's in The Koran, it's in the Bible, it tells you right there: "The slave owner is no better than the slave." Everybody's equal. With regard to the fact that I'm on TV or off TV, we're all the same. You're no better than me but I'm no better than you.
DG: Is it a mistake for people in the media to "come out" of the closet? What are your views on this highly debated and emotionally charged subject?
BM: It could be detrimental to one's career. Because, again, of the mentality that we have in America, that seems to be pervasive across the 50 states. That you have to be a certain way otherwise you're not going to "fit in" and we're not going to allow you to do certain things because you have this orientation or that preference. Whether it's religion, color or sexual orientation. And that's wrong, David. It shouldn't be that way.
DG: Who is your hero?
BM: Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela. I just read today that he ( Mandela ) has prostate cancer but they think he's going to be OK.
DG: You have a lot of wonderful things going on in your life right now, Byron. You have a great job, a wonderful daughter, a fiancee, a lot of things to celebrate and be thankful for. What is your fondest wish for the future?
BM: ( Byron bows his head ) To sleep past 3:30 a.m. ( We both laugh ) . No, to continue doing what God wants me to do. And I wish I were a born-again Christian, because then I would feel like, hey, it's a shoe-in for me to go straight to heaven. But by no means am I born again. But I do know that God had something in mind for me with my doing weather the way I'm doing it, and I'm hoping and wishing that I'm doing what he wants me to do. So when I finish this time on earth, he'll be able to let me upstairs. Because I don't want to go where it's hot! ( I laugh ) I don't like it real hot.