Back when I worked at daily newspapers, getting assigned the "weather story" was usually a sign you were either in the dog house with your editor or had drawn the short straw. Nobody wanted to report about the weather because … it's weather. Almost by definition, weather isn't news. In the winter it's cold and it snows (usually). In the spring and summer there are thunderstorms. Yawn.
Nowadays, though, it seems like TV, radio and news websites spring into Full Storm Coverage Mode in response to relatively minor changes in the weather. Snow's coming? Better get a team of reporters out there – someone on an overpass above the Kennedy Expressway, someone along the tollway, someone at one of the salt storage facilities in the city and someone out at O'Hare (never Midway) airport. Tuesday morning, every local news segment on WBEZ led off with Lisa Labuz reading the National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Warning updates, complete with the "get to an interior room on the lowest floor of your home or office" admonition. The way she was reading the bulletins, I expected to hear the tornado sirens go off any second.
They didn't. The wind blew kinda hard, lots of rain fell and some small tree branches came down in the street. I watched it all from an upstairs window. Heck, our neighbors went out for a walk 15 minutes before the rain and wind started. Now, I'm not convinced they knew a storm was coming, but even if they didn't, they probably just ducked under the nearest cover they could find and waited it out. The worst was over in 20 minutes.
Some people saw some real damage from the wind, no doubt. Trees down, branches landing on cars, power out. But nothing on the scale that would justify the red-alert treatment. All people need to do is exercise a little common sense. You see a black cloud filling the horizon? You should probably stay inside for a little bit. And you should expect some minor street flooding and possibly a wet basement. It's not like we don't see six or eight of these storms a year around here.
Similarly, in winter, we've all seen snow before. Two years ago we got 19 inches in one storm and temperatures stayed in the single digits for the better part of a week. I don't think we need 10 minutes at the top of the newscast on the approaching snow system.
And while I'm on a roll, do we have to see the same stories every hot or cold spell about people who have to work outside in those conditions? It's hot (or cold), we get it. Being a doorman, or a firefighter, or a bike messenger isn't fun in those conditions. It's not news.
Lakeshore News Tonight, on Lakeshore Public Television, did a weather story recently. The news team spent 10 minutes at the top of a recent newscast talking about the drought's effect on Indiana crops, and the likely food price increases that are likely as a result of the coming poor harvest. Now that's a useful, interesting weather story.
I like hearing about the weather ... in the weather segment. There's plenty of other news to cover during the rest of the broadcast. I suggest the news stations get to it.
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