“I can tell you my very first time on TV was not amazing,” Nate Byrne reveals.
“It took a little while for me to get settled and to find my spot properly. But I’m glad I did and I’m glad that they took a chance on me.”
Indeed. News Breakfast‘s Nate Byrne found his feet fast as its weather presenter after landing the job without any television experience, no screen test and no formal audition. Say what?
Byrne credits one of his ANU lecturers for the best career advice he’s ever received. Prior to ABC he had served for 12 years in the Australian Navy as a Maritime Warfare Officer, specialising as a meteorologist and oceanographer.
“I just saw the job. They wanted a journalist with an interest in the weather. But I had this one amazing bit of advice from one of the lecturers in the course. He said, ‘If there’s a phone number on a job ad, call it. Regardless. Call it.’
“So I called and said, ‘Hey, I’m not what you’re looking for. I’m a naval officer, science communicator, meteorologist, and oceanographer who’s interested in a bit of journalism. Here I am.’”
Byrne used University facilities, including a green screen, to hurriedly package a video which got him an interview by ABC producers.
“They didn’t put me on camera at all,” he reveals.
“They said ‘We’ll get back to you.’ It was a couple of weeks and I got a phone call.”
Six years later, alongside Michael Rowland, Lisa Millar, Tony Armstrong and Madeleine Morris, Byrne has proven popular with viewers. But he believes his work in meteorology was valued.
“I have expertise in the weather and that’s what I think ABC really cares about…. They must have seen something, that I wasn’t shy of talking to a camera.”
Byrne takes his science very seriously and unlike alternative weather presenter avoids an abundance of ‘colour’ pieces that invariably involve a sponsor tie-in or flitting around the country.
“I don’t go out to sell you something or to try and show off fancy places. I go out for reasons either related to the weather or to science. Because that’s kind of my patch. In National Science Week (I went) out and about in museums, talking to scientists where they are. We’re not flying me to Gold Coast so I can have a holiday and sell you a resort,” he insists.
“Typically, I’m not just reading you the numbers when it comes to the weather, I’m really engaged and focused with what’s going on and bringing you up to date current warnings and developments.
“I’m often much better-placed in the studio because I can react. I’ve got access to all the tools I need. I don’t have producers, I don’t have somebody else doing the work for me. So in times, especially of crisis and emergency, being in the studio means that I can give really current, up-to-date, accurate information when people need it.”
Byrne has also featured on other ABC broadcasts including Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and World Pride.
“For the Invictus Games, I was asked to host the Opening and Closing ceremonies, after only being on television for, I think, a year at that point,” he recalls.
“I found myself standing at Sydney Opera House in front of athletes from around the world with Prince Harry there. Then a week later at a stadium in Sydney with thousands of people for a massive closing concert. It was pretty wild.
“But that’s the other advantage of the ABC, right? The reason they asked me to do that is because I’m a veteran.
“I went to the Middle East, and did some counterterrorism operations. I was coordinating coalition forces at sea, mostly stopping the drug trade. I got a bronze commendation from the commander,” he explains.
He has even dipped his toe into Drama.
“I’m in the back of a group shot for The Newsreader, playing a 1980s news anchor from the Bicentenary celebrations… one of the ‘network celebrities’ back in the day!
“I’ve done a documentary as well called The Art of Remembrance. I was involved Stargazing, so I get a lot of great opportunities.”
Occasionally however, there have been detractors on social media.
“Generally, my social media is a pretty nice place, which is great. People want to know what type of cloud it is that they’ve managed to take a photo of, and that sort of stuff,” he remarks.
“But there have been some hiccups on social media. Actually, some people have been incredibly awful. There’s one particular time I’m thinking of in the past, when I was involved in my first Mardi Gras. It was the first time the ABC had a float, and I was on board. I had some really awful comments that really made me angry and made me point them out very publicly. My (News Breakfast) team got right behind me as did everybody else to say how disgusting and how unwelcome they were.”
It’s a small blight on an otherwise enjoyable time with the broadcaster. Byrne has the last laugh and no plans to move on anytime soon.
“I’m not going anywhere. They’ll have to scrape me out of the studio one day, I’m never leaving!”
News Breakfast screens 6-9am weekdays on ABC / ABC News.