Monday, March 30, 2009

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.

I guess I should live in New Hampshire, where the license plates proclaim “Live Free or Die”. I’m so tired of everybody telling me how to live my life.

We got about three inches of snow Saturday night. It’s March, it’s Wisconsin. It was “the State Tournament Blizzard” a week late. If you haven’t been a ‘sconnie most of your life, you may not be aware of the urban legend that there’s “always” a significant snowfall some time during the three-day run of the state boys’ basketball tournament.

I’d pretty much had my fill of NCAA Tournament basketball by 6 o’clock Saturday evening, so I switched over to a different local channel to catch the news. There, the 20-something anchor-in-training and the 20-something weather girl dispensed dubious advice to lead the broadcast.

Of course, since it had just begun to snow, they immediately went to the weather-girl to give us the latest on this highly dangerous and extremely tricky winter storm that was raging around us - NOT. After proving to us with geometric logic that it was indeed actually snowing outside, the weather-girl and anchor-in-training advised us against ANY travel of ANY sort. Something like “I hate to say it, but if I were you, I wouldn’t be going anywhere tonight”. The two agreed that this was a most dangerous situation, and going outside should be avoided at all cost.

Presumably, the two followed their own advice, and stayed at the studio until about 8 o’clock Sunday morning, when the gentle snow finally stopped.

Several months ago, one of the local print newspapers ran an item asking people if they thought the local weather people “hyped” the forecast. All but one of the respondents in their admittedly unscientific survey said “yes”.

That article must have escaped the notice of the two twenty-somethings dispensing the televised advice Saturday night…and their bosses. But then, as anybody who knows the biz can tell you, it’s weather that wins the ratings in the local TV game, and the more you can scare people into believing their family will not be safe unless they watch your weather, the higher the ratings will be.

So, when we get a three-inch snowfall, we must be warned against any travel of any sort. We must be reminded to stay tuned to this station, for the latest critical information (and dubious advice). I can’t wait for this summer, and the first thunderstorm we get. We’ll have to be warned that it is, in fact, raining, and that some thunderstorms have the potential to produce hail and high wind.

We must be some pretty stupid people, us TV viewers.


  1. When will media management understand that, the more they attempt to increase their ratings by scaring us, the less we will consume? The less we consume, the smaller the profits for business. The smaller the profits for business, the less they will advertise. The less they advertise, the sooner the media collapses for lack of a funding mechanism.

    Or maybe three inches is just a scary proposition for people that haven't seen as many snowfalls as we have ;)

  2. Think of the snowfall as an opportunity for a crash course in safe winter driving. If the station managers were on the stick they'd be getting ads from the car dealers and body shops and towing companies ... and instructing their weather birds to encourage folks to head out and enjoy the winter wonderland.

    Maybe in New Hampshire they're just more careful not to smash up the car - because you can go to jail there for altering the license plate. That includes putting duct tape over that hypocritical slogan.

    BTW ... The National Weather Service plans to make severe weather alerts - particularly when tornadoes are involved - even more urgent. There's apparently a bright future for hypemeisters. (Add the http:// part of the address to see the report: