An Interview with RJ Heim: More Constant Than the Weather

heimRJ Heim is a familiar face and voice to most Rhode Islanders, as the weekend weatherman and a feature reporter for the longstanding, top-rated television station NBC 10 WJAR for the past 25 years. Like most broadcasters, RJ’s journey to becoming an established media personality was filled with trials and tribulations; however, during a recent episode of The Bartholomewtown Podcast, Heim offered a particularly compelling story, describing the shape of his career path in intimate detail, and revealing the true artistry behind his output on the evening news.

Throughout the episode, Heim referenced broadcasters who influenced him, such as WFIL’s Jim O’Brien. He displayed a deep appreciation for the lineage of broadcasters and performers he once aspired to join.

Before transitioning to television, Heim began his career in radio, exploring a variety of personas and markets.

RJ Heim: I’ve always said that I loved radio better than I love television. Unless you’re a super talent like Howard Stern or something, you get fired too easily and there’s no money in it. I loved music, but thinking back I think the seeds were planted [for wanting to pursue broadcasting] when I was early on in first or second grade. I grew up between Philadelphia and New York, so I had access to both media and I loved music. I loved radio WABC and WFYL. At the time they were the big stations, all on AM. They had huge personalities that wove the music together, wove the stories together and they were a presence that you don’t have much in radio anymore. It’s all formulaic informatic and all that today. But back then these guys were amazing.

RJ, who had a fascination with weather as a young child, was convinced that he wanted to become a weatherman when Jim O’Brien — the WFIL radio broadcaster — became a weekend television weatherman.

RJH: I was the kid that in third grade, without asking parental permission, wrote a letter to the National Weather Service in Trenton saying, “I’m Bobby Heim, I love weather, I want to be a weatherman someday send me everything you got” And this huge, thick envelope shows up in the mail a week later.

But it really all came together when this radio disc jockey Jim O’Brien became a weatherman on TV and he was a huge personality there.

So and that’s that I kind of made up my mind that my parents bought me a little cassette recorder. I knew exactly when the weather people were on in New York and Philadelphia on the TV.

Now, some 30 years into his broadcasting career, Mr. Heim is an established personality at the dominant news station in the Providence – New Bedford market. Though this provides him with a large-scale platform, it also renders an element of responsibility to uphold the station’s brand and ratings.

RJH: The ratings are still through the roof. Out of all the people that had their TVs on, one in five were watching Channel 10 at six o’clock last night.

So, it’s a huge responsibility and all the hard working people of Channel 10 know, from the directors from the photographers from the engineering staff, broadcasting’s in our blood and we know this may be the last gasp of community television gathering thing … whatever you want to call it.

Heim’s artistic approach to broadcasting is both a blend of his mentors’ style and his own unique persona. He offered keen words for artists, and everyone, to consider.

RJH: For artists, we don’t have the shelf that everybody else has. And part of what makes us live and breathe is taking everything that comes in. Because a lot of it doesn’t bounce off, and crafting it into a message is our canvas whether it be screenplays or music, for you are doing stories about the human condition. You have to find a way to get it out. There’s a way to pay your bills along the way and still follow your passion. Follow your passion number one, but make sure you get a roof over your head and you have to make sure you have one day out of all of it. For yourself. No obligations, no commitments — to nourish your soul, to take naps, to wake up when you want to, to eat whatever you want, to take another nap.

Whatever your heart desires — go to the beach take an 8 mile walk across the city, which I do sometimes because it keeps me grounded. See everything at eye level, just you and the wind. No iPod, no phone. Nothing in your ears, just you and the wind and the sun, and the rain sometimes, and the snow. Just get out there in the elements. Unplug yourself one day a week everything.