Okay, Let’s Get the Rules Straight on the Weathergasms

Okay, this latest weathergasm in the Midsouth is like a grass fire about waist high: it’s really burned my butt. Here’s the deal. I keep an eye on the weather. When I’m working on my computer I check in periodically with the National Weather Service. For those who don’t realize it, this is the basic source of weather information for the local weather people. Some of the local weather people have weather seals and degrees in meteorology and know the secret handshake of the weather folks but they still go back to the National Weather Center for the information on what is happening climate-wise. So I figure that I too will go straight to the source. And I had been seeing predictions of bad weather possibly arriving in the Memphis area before the day was over on Tuesday.   So, I managed to keep an eye on the weather and saw that some stuff was building and that a line was headed through the MidSouth by mid-evening.  Now, maybe the weather rules have changed in the couple of years since I was in TV news but here’s how I remember them.  You run the crawl at the bottom of the screen or squeeze back the regular programming and show local radar if there is a thunderstorm watch or warning or tornado watch or flood watch or flood warning.  You only interrupted programming if there was a tornado warning and you stayed with it until the warning was over.  That apparently changed Tuesday night as a Thunderstorm Warning took place here in the Memphis area.  Granted,  Jonesboro, AR had some nasty weather but that wasn’t here.  Maybe the good folks at WPTY-24 thought we needed a refresher on severe weather so they had their weatherman show us their Super-duper-Gonad Doppler 24 Weatherwarn Skywatch radar and then after cutting into the first part of a new episode of the only network show I bother to watch (Boston Legal) they had their anchors spend another 30-seconds recapping and then trying to steer viewers to the website for yet more weather information and then one anchor managed to verbally stumble out of the segment into network programming.  Was I P-Oed? You betcha.  Am I the only one? Not at all.  My wife was visiting some of her marketing clients and THEY were talking about how the local weather folks had managed to beat this particular dead horse into the ground last night.  I didn’t see if all the stations were having a multiple weathergasm Tuesday night but I will bet they were.  What did the locals tell my wife?  Unsolicited they basically said they were really tired of the local TV people over-blowing the weather situation and that it was just another case of crying wolf (their words, not my wife’s).  They said you really couldn’t count on the local TV weather people to give you the straight stuff on weather anymore because they were too busy hyping it.  Wow.  If the average folks are reacting that way, isn’t it time the TV weather folks and the TV managers listen?

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14 Comments on “Okay, Let’s Get the Rules Straight on the Weathergasms”

  1. AMNewsBoy Says:

    A KC guy who was annoyed about severe weather alerts interrupting programming on the last night of sweeps started a campaign to fire one of the local mets (who, in his opinion, prompted everybody else to follow suit in the “panic weather” race).

    Has it been successful? I’m not really sure. Obviously, the met is still at her station… and all the local stations are running “we’re saving your lives and we’re glad you appreciate it in your eMails and stuff” promos… but… when we had another round of severe weather recently, all the stations ran crawls and radar maps, and there were no break-ins (at least none that I saw). Was it a “reaction”? Not quite sure, ’cause the weather wasn’t THAT severe — but we’ll see later this storm season, I’m sure.

    However… along the same lines… the site/campaign has kinda fallen off the radar here locally… and probably will until the next round of severe weather hits…. especially if it happens again during sweeps.

  2. me Says:

    http://www.firekatie.com is this what you were talking about?

  3. Jeff Says:

    I totally agree. I flipped over to 13 (Fox) and they were saying “The Latest on the Weather without the hype”.I usually watch 5 as they include our Pickwick area.We get Jackson,Tupelo and Memphis here. But if your ever in Jackson and there is bad weather watch WCBY.They try to hype , but the graphics and radar look like a three year old did them with a box of wet crayons

  4. joelarkins Says:

    The KC guy was one of those folks who said “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” I received a link on that from another reader. Also, I’m told I used a rather broad brush to paint the stroke about weathergasms in Memphis this week. I admit I only saw one station’s reaction and only heard about others, not witnessing them first hand. It’s very possible one person’s opinion of over-hyped weather is completely responsible coverage in the eyes of another.

  5. joelarkins Says:

    I guess I wasn’t the only person ticked off by WPTY’s weather lesson Tuesday night. A letter to the editor in Thursday’s CA addresses the same issue.

  6. wxgeek Says:

    Unfortunately, this is what happens when a station spends gazillions on a new radar system. Management wants to see all the “bells and whistles”, marketing wants promotion, and local talent gets sucked into competing for attention.

  7. smart enuf to stay out of the rain Says:

    Five also blathered through two hours of fresh L&O episodes, but had enough class to rebroadcast them in the wee hours. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell DirectTV, so unless you checked and manually programmed TiVo, having TiVo was no help.

    24 wasn’t allowed to do that by ABC. Now, they know that, but still insist on interrupting, which means that, unless it’s available on the web, Boston Legal fans are SOL.

    What ticks me off is that all this does is desensitize people so they don’t pay attention when there is an actual threat. Only the most serious weather nut is going to leave the tube on through that pseudointellectual CF.

    They must have to search far and wide, or pay cash, for the people who claim the non-stop weathergasms “saved my life.” Anybody with enough sense to avoid a tornado has enough sense to do it without Dave Brown, Joey Sulipek or Tim Simpson telling them to duck.

    thanks for listening

  8. joelarkins Says:

    As I’ve stated before, I have less of a problem with weathergasms and wall-to-wall coverage when a TORNADO WARNING is issued. I think that can be a valuable service especially if Mee-Maw is insisting on staying in the mobile home. We all know by now that a house trailer attracts a tornado like the smell of money attracts the attention of a politician in Memphis. My problem is with any other times of breaking in with weather. Yes, I know that research shows that weather is the number one reason people watch local news and perhaps particular stations. Since it is so important, use the two minute commercial break to reveal your vast weather knowledge when it comes to watches or warnings OTHER than the TORNADO WARNINGS. I’m sure the commercial sponsors would love to see you preempt them exclusively. The sales people shouldn’t have any problems convincing the sponsors of the good deed or service they are doing and the happiness they are creating by ONLY INTERRUPTING the commercial break and NOT the programming. Use the campaign that you are the station that cares and you will be more responsible than your competition which is trying to scare you into watching. Some stations are realizing that crying wolf is driving away viewers. I’m told Fox 13 in Memphis is trying to hold down the instances of breaking in for non-weather events. And stations that DO NOT, risk alienating viewrs. According to Shoptalk, at least one station in Louisville, KY is facing the heat these days and we’ve already posted one link on this thread about the stations in Kansas City.

  9. Loe Jarkins Says:

    13 didn’t break in during the tornado warning that was issued during Idol. That tells you their weather commitment in a nutshell.

  10. John Says:

    Actually 13 did break in, but only during the commercial breaks. I’m sure the viewers overall were happy with that decision but it does seem to show where the priorities lie at 13 at least when it comes to Idol. I imagine I’m in the minority along with Joe but I’m fine with interrupting programming if there are tornadoes being spotted in the area. That’s important information to be passed along, and not just waiting for it to appear on the ticker or during a commercial break. That warning during Idol was spotted and caused some damage. Now the other stuff, just leave it to the ticker and report it at 9/10 unless its something like what was going on here a few summers ago. By the time those storms got here in the Memphis area Tuesday Night, they had lost their punch and the coverage was just completely unnecessary on the level it received. In addition to angering viewers, it does desensitize them to the times when they should be made aware of storms that are truly threatening lives and damaging property.

    Also, I wouldn’t completely blame the weather guys on all of this. Most of the time its seems to be the “higher-ups” who are forcing them to go on-air for hours on end when not needed.

    One more thing, people should try living in Oklahoma City during these kinds of storms. Memphis has nothing on all the hype and hysteria seen on the stations there during just typical thundershowers. People there would probably be ecstatic to see it at the level Memphis usually gets.

    BTW, interesting name “Loe Jarkins” 😉

  11. Jack Church Says:

    As a former weather forecaster and later sales person for those “super duper quadruple, multi sweep, larger than life” radar systems I agree completely that weather coverage has gone over the top. I can honestly say this is one of the big reasons after almost 20 years in the business I got sick of doing it. Unfortunately for the younger folks coming into televiison weather this is what they are being taught to do by management. I still attend one or two annual weather conferences and at some point during the conference they will have a seminar where it becomes a “lovefest” of guys and gals showing their latest and greatest so called “severe weather” events and how they went “wall to wall” with coverage. Granted, sometimes this is warranted b ut many time as I sit there and watch this stuff I would swear it is simply being done so somebody in the back has fresh hot material to make the next weather promo. Unfortunately local television is so far down this road that I don’t see it changing anytime soon. But at the same time we can pretty much say the same about news. When Anna Nicole Smith and the battle over some DNA crap takes the lead for days while we are fighting a war overseas….well, nuff said.

  12. JD Says:

    Hey Joe, don’t you think you were a little harsh?

    I mean, I like to see a radar swoop over a dry cactus in the middle of Death Valley and, the track of the fly that just alighted on it. Now, what this has to do with Memphis weather….good….bad…..or indifferent……is beyond me.

    I say let’s all get a Kentucky Weather Stick! (Stick is wet, it’s raining. Stick is dry, it’s not raining. Stick casts a shadow, it’s sunny. Stick has no shadow, it’s cloudy. Stick is flying throught the air, seek shelter!)

  13. b Says:

    isn’t the over-commitment to weather just management’s way of covering up their lack of commitment to any serious news reporting?

  14. avi8tor Says:

    WEATHERGASMS —- I’m to the point to where I believe that the audio guy will soon start running heavy breathing and moaning behind Tim and the Gang and Dave and his posse. The fact is that, being a pilot, I deal with the “real” weather guys and have to make weather decisions that relate directly to the safety of my aircraft and passengers and I get my weather from the same guys that the TV and radio stations do. I never have talked to a weather briefer that is overly excited about some plain old rain storms with a little thunder and lightning.
    Granted, the media outlets perform an invaluable service to keep everyone informed about the potential of bad weather and have a duty to break into programming for Tornado Warnings and even severe thunderstorm warnings, but break in and let it go. I, as most consumers of the local media “product” value the information, but I can read. They also need to realize that a great number, maybe the majority of regional viewers are probably watching cable or satellite and I doubt they’re watching the “local” stations programming. I’m also not impressed with all the bells and whistles that they have purchased in their latest and greatest radars….they’re just overgrown microwave ovens on steriods! I’ve got that same technology in the airplane, including direct satellite connection to the latest Nexrad (National Weather Service) Radar. I wonder if folks realize that the National Weather Service radar is scanning the same storms as the grand and glorious “Doppler, look both ways, flux-capacitor powered, moonbounce, hydroculator-controlled RADAR”.
    The TV guys need to stop and take a breath and infuse their excitement with live airtime with a little common-sense and stop trying to panic the public.
    If they want to really see a Thunderstorm, come take a ride with me and look at one from 50 or 60 miles away at Flight Level 250…… at night. It’s absolutely glorious and awesome. Yes, it’s something to respect and watch, but it’s also part of the world in which we live. Keep a watchful eye and respect the power of Mother Nature, but let’s stop the hype, the constant repetition, and promos showing storms of 2 and 3 years ago.
    Guys, give us the information, give us the details, then get off it….it makes you look like hucksters that P.T. Barnum would have hired in a minute.

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