Outdoor Weather, Indoor Weather, and A Memphis Politician Turns Up the Heat on a Local Reporter (Not)

I thought it was just my imagination that local stations seemed to be more involved in weathergasms these days. I just chalked it off to the fact that they had the toys and needed to use them or maybe global warming was kicking in and screwing around with the weather. Then I ran across an article in Shoptalk about weather coverage in Charlotte, NC. That article focused in part on how TV stations in the Queen City were interfering with regular programming with their weather coverage and how one of the powerhouse stations there had scaled back its weather coverage after getting raked over the coals by viewers when it cut into the ACC college basketball playoffs. I guess they’re now doing what WHBQ Fox 13 is doing which is not going overboard unless it merits a true weathergasm. In that article it mentioned that:We have taken the stance that if there’s a tornado warning, we need to be tracking that storm,” said Dennis Milligan, WBTV’s news director. “Problem is, you wind up hijacking people’s programs for something that’s not really happening. I’ve got four expert meteorologists who know this inside and out. We’re relying on them to be more discerning about our coverage.” Thursday night, they analyzed the storms and decided they were not a major threat. Reporters kept in touch with authorities in the affected counties and were told there were no damage reports. During commercial breaks, the station provided updates. Milligan said the station’s new approach comes in part because the National Weather Service seems to be issuing more frequent tornado warnings.

It was that last line that really caught my attention so that’s why I put the info in bold letters. TV stations can just blame the National Weather Service. Hey, they’re just trying to share what the NWS is putting out.

Regardless, I can say there was a lot of devastation over the weekend. I saw some of the nastiness firsthand in Stuttgart, AR early Sunday morning. As I have said time and time again, I don’t have a problem when local TV stations break in when tornado warnings are issued. It’s when they beat us over the head with the Super-duper Gonad Gajillion watts of NowRad Cobra Gotcha radar for a typical thunderstorm that still causes me problems.

Speaking of weather, I also saw in Shoptalk that a station in the Twin Cities of Minnesota was celebrating 25 years of having a backyard weather set. The article on KARE mentioned some of the incidents that had occurred during the outdoor weather segments. At one time WREG had the backyard weather set and while I think the weather folks generally hated it, I liked it. Yes, we used to get viewers complaining about why in the world did we make the weather people outside. I used to tell them we did it because “outside is where the weather was”. Granted, the weather folks got to come inside when it was dangerous such as lightning and all of that but what better way do the weather IMHO. And if by chance you really screwed the pooch with the forecast, then you were out there enjoying the fruits of your labors. Yes, it was really cold on occasion or really hot on occasion but most of the viewers were out there at some point in time too. Anyway, I guess the viewing public in Memphis didn’t see much about it or perhaps a consultant came up with a weather center and everybody shifted in that direction. One of these days though, the outdoor weather schtick will return in the Bluff City.

And Janice Broach, you had better watch out girl. Apparently you did a story recently on Memphis City Council member Janis Fullilove and her recent car crash while returning from the casinos of Tunica County. I’m not sure what was said but you must have left J-F POed. I’ve attempted to share the video that was shared with me but so far I’ve not had any luck. I’ll see if I can get it figured out. Try clicking on this link.

Okay,  Janice, consider yourself warned.

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5 Comments on “Outdoor Weather, Indoor Weather, and A Memphis Politician Turns Up the Heat on a Local Reporter (Not)”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    Ah, I have fond memories of the “Love Shack” behind Channel 3. They even stuck me in front of it once for a medical report on heat-related health problems. Nice idea — but it blocked a perfectly nice view of the river. And once they moved the newsroom to the other side of the building, it was just too inconvenient for the weather guys to be that far away from the computer banks.

  2. JD Says:

    I think this is an unfortunate set of circumstances between an elected official and a newsperson.
    It has happened before and will happen again. The striking difference here is that Ms. Fullilove is/was a media person who should know full well, that a public offical’s personal and private life is open to scrutiny. There are no secrets. Ms. Fullilove should have just blown it off and remained dignified. Ms. Broach was only doing what she is paid to do and that is, to inform the public with due diligence.

    (I wish there had been cameras around when the tiff happened between Gale Jones Carson and Andy Wise……Now, THAT would have been entertainment. Both are very head strong, determined, and will go to the wall if they think they are right. T’would have made good sweeps material! I am glad he isn’t chasing down anymore psychotic drunks!)

  3. Ryan Vaughan Says:

    You bring up a great point Joe. We can’t base our coverage on the warnings of the NWS. Here in Jonesboro, we have cut-in “prior” to warnings and we have gone back to regular programming before the warnings have ended.

    The wx staff needs to know when the threat is there, BUT they also need to know when the threat has passed.

    Here’s the problem though…. We base our coverage on the THREAT, not the expiration time on the warning (which can go up to 1 hour). Other stations bases their coverage on the expiration times. In return, we get phonecalls and emails stating that we are not covering the weather as well.

    I’ll say this… There has never been any major damage with us not on the air. Knock on wood.

  4. K. Welch Says:

    The transmittal of emergency information is part of the deal as to why broadcasters have been given access to the necessarily controlled radio spectrum, allowed to fill most of it with meaningless programming and to pay for it with commercials. When the emergency occurs, it’s time the broadcasters fulfill their part of the bargain. The most frequent emergency to occur in our area threatening significant segments of the community is severe weather. Entertainment programming should be considered just fill material to keep a presence on the air between legitimate news broadcasts, including severe weather warnings. If the fill material and associated advertising brings in money to sustain the station so it will be on the air, then the deal is working as it was designed. However, as fill material, it is dispensable.

    The idea that television weather or news staffs can have sufficient knowledge to call off, downgrade, or otherwise diminish the nature of a severe weather warning should be found faulty immediately. Watching the “wall to wall” coverage, how many times and for how long do the weather and news staffs say they have no confirmations of a tornado or damage? It is often an hour or more before the media learns if the storm had done harm or even if a tornado developed (by definition a tornado is “on the ground”). An hour after the event is too late to warn people. In fact, with the competition for camera time among the “meteorologists,” how often are they exhibiting their expertise while missing for a while, or not repeating frequently, a warning? I’ve seen it several times just in the past few months.

    Certainly there is much room for increasing the knowledge of severe weather and refining when and for what areas warnings should be issued. I hope we put the burden of those considerations on operational and research meteorologists, not broadcast meteorologists. That a news director would claim to have “four expert meteorologists who know this inside and out,” shows how foolish local news executives are and how much they believe their on relentless hyperbole. The most brilliant meteorologists do not know the full dynamics of severe storms. They have learned a lot but much more remaining to understand. So even if a television station should have a staff of the top research meteorologists, they do not know enough to claim to know this discipline “inside and out.”

    Dallas-Ft. Worth is one of the top television markets in the nation (number 5, I believe). Stations in that market have the money to buy the best in equipment and personnel. During a recent tornado outbreak in that area in which damage occurred, one metropolitan area city failed to sound its tornado warning sirens despite the National Weather Service having issued a tornado warning. Why? “Because television broadcasts had yet to mention Plano in warnings … The weather caused millions of dollars in property damage and cut power to thousands.” (Dallas Morning News, dallasnews.com, April 30, 2008) Clearly the city officials responsible were largely at fault, but this is what can happen when one puts too much reliance on television personnel and when those broadcasters try to edit, amend, append, or otherwise get too cute with the data. Weather reporters, whether meteorologists or not, should be considered an extension of the news departments, reporting the news (severe weather warnings included), not making the news (in the extreme, determining if a weather service warning is valid or not). The validity of such warnings, and adjustment to their future issuance, is best handled by thoughtful and thorough review, not on the spur of the moment as the emergency is underway. The same is true for reviewing the rightful editorial function of news personnel.

    It seems to me one of the most legitimate things broadcast television has done in decades is to upgrade the warning coverage of dangerous weather.

  5. JD Says:

    Best watch out Joe. Somebody on Mediaverse has you paired with Joe Birch for a possible singing gig at the next Bar-B-Que contest. Check the comments.

    Along with some of what could pass as the old “WHBQ CUTIES”


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