It’s Snow News

Up to two feet of snow hit the Mid-Atlantic and New England states last week, the second storm within two weeks. Wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour and temperatures in the 20s created severe wind chill and extreme hazardous driving conditions. Pennsylvania ordered all commercial trucks off many of its major highways and Interstates. Schools and colleges throughout the Northeast cancelled classes, many for two days.

We were warned that this would be a severe storm, because days before we received minute-by-minute predictions from TV weather persons. The snow will be two feet deep. Or maybe only 3 to 5 inches. No, wait, that was last hour’s prediction. It’s now going to be 5-9 inches. Or, maybe 10 inches. No, wait. That’s wrong, it’ll be 15 to 20 inches. It’ll bury buildings and wreak a path of destruction unlike anything seen in the past four thousand years! It might also be only a half-foot. We’ll be revising our prediction to some other number as soon as our assignment editor throws a dart at the Snow Inch Board.

Most residents, unless they were forced to work, were smart enough to stay home. Also smart enough to stay indoors were TV news directors who sent their reporters and camera crews into the middle of snow-covered roads. Deep-voiced anchors introduced us to the infotainment promotion that has become TV news: “Now, LIVE from the middle of the Interstate, and bravely facing blizzard conditions with EXCLUSIVE coverage ONLY on Eyewitless News 99, your hometown station for LIVE EXCLUSIVE weather coverage is our LIVE reporter, Sammy Snowbound.”

Reporters and meteorologists were soon entertaining us with wooden rulers, which they pushed onto snow-covered tables and snow banks to report snow accumulation, not unlike a radio reporter doing play-by-play announcing for a high school basketball contest.

The previous week, the local news stations and TV all-news networks identified a crippling snow as “Snowmageddon” and “Snowpocalyse.” This week, with its winds, we learned about “Snowicane.”

And so for two back-to-back snow-somethings, we had almost unlimited Team Coverage. The teams interviewed business owners—”So, how’s the snow affecting your business?” They interviewed residents—”So, how’s the snow affecting your plans?” They even interviewed public officials—”So, how’s the snow affecting your budget?”

If Jesus came to the Northeast, he’d be watching all-snow all-the-time coverage, and waiting in a green room for his one minute interview. “So, Jesus, how you surviving the snow?”

The problem of the extended coverage is that when there isn’t any snow, local TV news gives us a five minute weather report on the Evening News. Excluding commercials, teasers, and mindless promotion, that’s more than one-fourth of the news budget. We learn all about highs and lows, Arctic clippers, temperatures in obscure places, and the history of snowflakes. When a weather “event” occurs, TV has to ramp up its coverage, ‘lest we think we can learn what we need to know in only five minutes.

Every weather person will tell you there are no two snowflakes the same. But, we can always count on the same coverage, storm after storm, from the same flakes covering the weather. While the reporters are in the middle of a blizzard showing us snow—and how brave they are—they aren’t giving us significant information about how to prepare for and then survive a storm, which may cut off electricity for up to a week. Nor are the TV crews telling us what happens to the homeless, or how the storms are affecting everything from insects to black bears.

Long after the storm passes, we’ll still be seeing TV weather reports of about four or five minutes—”It’ll be sunny tomorrow, and here’s a history of sun.” It would be nice if local TV news would spend as much time as it does delivering semi-accurate weather reports to discuss significant governmental and social issues along with its diet of car crashes, fires, and the latest Pickle Festival.

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, and his latest Fracking Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Walter, or visit Walter's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on March 1st, 2010 at 9:23am #

    Don’t worry Walter the coverage will change.

  2. rosemarie jackowski said on March 1st, 2010 at 9:43am #

    Yep, here I am at ground zero. Power outages are common. Many here have no auxiliary heating systems. Frozen pipes are a major issue because they can destroy a house and also the family finances. It is an issue for all of those without the money for a generator. There are NO government or ‘social agencies’ who are interested in the issue. I have advocated for improved emergency services for years. No one is listening – part of the ‘every-man-for-himself syndrome’ that has taken over the country.

  3. Don Hawkins said on March 1st, 2010 at 3:05pm #

    From James Hansen’s new web page. If you look at it what does it mean? Well not only sea level rise but rather large changes to World weather patterns that we already see with our own eye’s.

  4. Don Hawkins said on March 2nd, 2010 at 3:40am #

    James Hansen’s new web page and take a look at Critical Climate Diagnostics and Feedbacks. Take your time think outside the box the box a few would like to keep us in.

  5. Don Hawkins said on March 2nd, 2010 at 5:26am #

    What is it we hear the we being the little people. The Earth is cooling for the last ten years or it’s a hoax by people who just want money I love that one. Health care the last months what do we hear? Well to me this is the big one and that is drum roll please the American people don’t want it. Tell it over and over again and it becomes real. The people that do that where did that learn that in the constitution.

  6. bozh said on March 2nd, 2010 at 9:04am #

    Hi don,
    Well, don, i am 88 y o and look like a 78 y o, but feel colder by the day. Doesn’t that prove that earth is cooling along my own body.
    We all know, that aging has nothing to do with feeling cold! So it must be because of the earth cooling!
    Or do u think i shld eat more beans? tnx

  7. Don Hawkins said on March 2nd, 2010 at 9:15am #

    Beans and rice vetables good stuff but the other question I do need to know what you think.

  8. bozh said on March 2nd, 2010 at 9:24am #

    Don, i joke and lie a lot. Especially to my wife. I think the globe is getting warmer which heralds some catastrophies;especially, if we in the west keep living the way we do!

  9. Don Hawkins said on March 4th, 2010 at 4:12am #

    This is one of best I have ever read clear very clear.

  10. Don Hawkins said on March 4th, 2010 at 5:44am #

    Now, perhaps for the first time since the controversy over Darwin, that authority was seriously challenged. With Darwin, the challenge was mounted by the Church. With climate science, it was mounted by an assortment of charlatans, ideologues and contrarians on behalf of the fossil fuel-based corporation.

    Do corporations control our goverment here in the States? With what we now know are they nothing more than an assortment of charlatans and ideologues well let’s just listen today the crazy talk on heath care and then think climate chage bill how will that be handled. Out of site out of mind rather hard to do don’t you think as for some reason the problem itself that is right now today going into high gear will only show itself more and more.

    The capacity for the expression of a collective will is, unhappily, precisely what at present – as in the past – humankind entirely lacks. In matters as diabolically difficult as concerted and rational international action on climate change, necessity may not, after all, be the mother of invention.

    Collective will let’s watch the collective will of fossil fuel-based corporations and there front men and women just today on health care should give us a look of things to come at least for a few more years. It’s just better that way oh really say’s who? Are the assortment of charlatans, ideologues so called leaders smarter than the average better of course not just an illusion oh dear an idenity crisis.