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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Crisis averted

It's official. Yesterday's storm hype was overrated.
As snow fell in New England yesterday and last night, it seemed that the worst had been avoided. There was a largely effortless commute, few major accidents, and a palpable sense of relief. The storm, it turned out, dumped less snow than forecast and was more a source of wonderment and holiday delight than headaches and danger.
The Herald concurred, preferring to look to the future:
The Hub is being slammed with a double winter whammy, with last night’s storm just the beginning of a week of wicked weather that will see more snow, rain, sleet, bitter cold and high winds - starting with another storm tomorrow.
Don't get me wrong. My back isn't too happy this morning and the sight of more flakes isn't doing much for my blood pressure. But the build up to yesterday's 8-12 inch snowfall reminds me once again that the single biggest competition in local television news today is weather.

Why else would Channel 5 continue to collect forecasters even as they offer buy-outs and contemplate layoffs? They have roughly five times as many people forecasting flakes as they have reporting on government. Or health. We all are on a first name basis with Harvey and Dickie. The same is true at every other outlet, although for the life of me I can't recall the name of the nameless ones on their competition.

And let's not forget the army of reporters standing along roadsides, sticking yard sticks into snow mounds and modeling silly hats. We all remember Shelby Scott gamely doing the bidding of her Channel 4 editors.

But storm coverage is the one bright economic spot for local broadcasters. WBZ-AM sells its storm closing announcements -- which have been so long lately they drive me in the shower early. Stations were dropping regularly scheduled shows last night to stay "on top" of the coverage.

Not that there was much to say. It's snowing. The showing is piling up. Stay off the roads if you don't need to go out. Be careful shoveling. There. That took about 10 seconds. Next.

No one is really immune. My first day on the job at a major league media operation (well it was at the time) involved storm coverage. A freak April snowstorm brought the skiers out on Boston Common, prompting my new editor to introduce me to the word "skittered" to describe how they glided along paths.

Then there were the overnight chats with the unsung heroes of the forecasting business -- the National Weather Service. Not celebrities, they cranked out the basics, what CNN today uses as the name for Campbell Brown's newscast.

Those chats taught me to rely on the NWS for snowfall totals. No ratings were involved. No need to top the next forecaster with totals -- or snazzy gizmos.

Let's put this in perspective. The ice storm that coated Central Massachusetts and New Hampshire and brought life to a halt along with the power was a serious storm. The words "freezing rain" in tomorrow's forecast make me nervous.

Yesterday? That's called winter in New England (even if we are still technically hours away from the solstice).

Tomorrow? Stay off the roads if you don't need to go out. Be careful shoveling. There. I got it down to five seconds. Next.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Chris Rich said...

TV weather operations are their main 'teaser' bread and butter for those who still depend on 'old media'.

In Seattle, they'd go to ridiculous extremes with 'task tagged' elements.

For Example: If you plan to walk your dog, it will be 65 and sunny. If you're going to Safeco for the Mariner's game it will be 65 and sunny...etc.

Those of us who are beyond 'old media' can chuckle at it's idiot quaintness when we are not disgusted by it's attempts to provide as little useful information as possible in favor of 'info-tainment' and 'aditorial'

The Detroit Free Press recently came out and admitted it's biz model sucks and it is giving up on delivering the dead tree roll to doors and focusing on web news as 9 out of 10 of it's readers acknowledged the web as the main source.

All 'old media' is dying. Sam Zell is over leveraged to the tune of 130 billion in his grab of the LA Times and will soon sink.

The NYT parent corp of the hideous Boston Globe is in similar trouble.

I'm betting Mindich is also in debt up to his eyeballs in his bid to impose Phoenix mediocrity from Maine to Rhode Island with radio grabs in addition to print media.

These old toxic overlords are all dying from a combination of Google and Craigslist.

Google is an ultimate open play pipeline and Craigslist ate the lunch of classified sections, a key aspect of rag revenue.

Now I recently moved to Pittsfield and the region doesn't have as much household web participation so the Berkshire Eagle is still healthy.

But then, they've always been a better paper than the Globe anyway.

Returning to TV weather, jeeze, I just go right to NOAA and use their great free stuff.

The only missing element there is jet stream data, those all important 'upper atmosphere steering winds' that move storm fronts toward or away from us but you can get the jet stream data from Weather Underground.

December 20, 2008 5:43 PM  

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