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Rob Gutro - Deputy News Chief and "Master of Disaster"
05.08.13
 
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Rob Gutro, deputy news chief, manager of breaking news and the NASA Hurricane and Fire websites, is Goddard’s “Master of Disaster.”


Name: Rob Gutro
Title: Deputy News Chief, Office of Communications
Formal Job Classification: Public Affairs Specialist
Organization: Code 130, Office of Communications, Office of the Director

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?


I am the deputy news chief. I have degrees in meteorology, English and broadcasting, and I used to work as a forecaster for The Weather Channel. At Goddard, I work with the news chief to review everyone’s press releases and features, coordinate issue dates and approvals with NASA Headquarters, and I use NASA satellite imagery to write about breaking news on hurricanes, wildfires, volcanoes, severe storms and other natural disasters.

I coordinate the day’s releases first thing each morning and check to see what natural disasters are occurring in the world. I am known as the "Master of Disaster" in the office.
Photo of Rob Gutro› Larger image
Photo of Rob Gutro. Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk
Each day, I access satellite imagery on various mission websites from NASA’s fleet of Earth science satellites. I then interpret the satellite imagery and write about what it reveals on any breaking news story, like a hurricane. For example, NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite shows us the rate rain falls in a storm, but NASA does not forecast the actual storm.
Photo of Rob and his family› Larger image
Rob with his furry family. Photo courtesy of R. Gutro
I am also a science writer for the James Webb Space Telescope and the coordinator for Hubble, and NASA-NOAA joint mission releases and features. Coordination is time consuming; it requires good record keeping, editing and being detail-oriented to obtain the many approvals involved. I also coordinate press releases for events, education and technology. In addition, I manage the NASA Hurricane Web page, the NASA Fire Web page and the NASA Facebook and Twitter Hurricane pages. On average, I write about 20 or so stories a week, but during a busy hurricane season I could write as many as 40!

I also edit press releases and features from all of the other science writers every week, so I have to know a little bit about science ranging from supernovas to melting glaciers. Our releases cover Earth science, astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary science, technology, education and other events. I have learned a lot of science on the job. When I edit, I try to be helpful but not critical. My edits are suggestions, not demands. The trick to good editing is to edit like a teammate.

Who is the most interesting, inspiring or amazing person you have met or worked with at Goddard?


There are several who come to mind but the first four are Jeff Halverson, a research meteorologist; Amber Straughn, an astrophysicist, and Paul Geithner, an engineer, both on the Webb telescope; and Dr. John Mather, our Nobel laureate. All of these people are funny, personable,
passionate and energetic, which are things that motivate me. They can all covey complex idea in an easy to understand way.

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?


In 2005, I helped create the NASA Hurricane Web page and became the manager and writer of it. It is my passion! I love hurricanes! I have always been fascinated by hurricanes since Hurricane Belle hit New England in August 1976 when I was 13 years old. Hurricanes are powerful and not fully understood. You cannot easily get out of a hurricane’s path, so preparation and advance warning are critical.

What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody who wants to be a writer?


Everybody wants to be a writer. I recommend reading a lot about many subjects. Always be open-minded to everything. Start a blog and blog daily about things that interest you and about which you are passionate. Share it with your friends.

My dad inspired me to be a writer. He read books every day. My dad bought me comic books, which inspired me to read, write and draw my own comic books. I still collect superhero comics and graphic novels. I feel like a character who belongs on “The Big Bang Theory” – a scientist, a geek and a superhero fan.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be doing?


I would probably be a TV meteorologist.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, or activities outside of work that people do not generally know?

My partner and I work with two dog rescue organizations, the Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue Group from which we got our 16-year-old and 1-year-old dachshunds, and the Wolf Creek Weimaraner Rescue Group of Tennessee, which is how we got our 8-year-old Weimaraner. We also have another dachshund who is 9 years old. We foster dogs who do not yet have homes, which is how we got three of our four dogs. We also help transport dogs and donate money to several other rescue organizations.

Do you have a favorite superhero?


My favorite superheroes are Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Spectre and, of course, the Red Tornado. In 2012, I attended the Baltimore Comicon as Green Lantern and teamed with two other Green Lanterns to win second place in the costume contest.
Rob at the Baltimore Comicon› Larger image
Matt Christensen (Left) as Guy Gardner, Green Lantern; Rob Gutro (Center) as Hal Jordan, Green Lantern; and Mike Mason (right) as John Stewart, Green Lantern. Credit: 2.bp.blogspot.com
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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD