Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday Media Rant: Them Changes

We got a bit of water in the lower level of our home in Monday night’s storm; not a lot. My wife sopped it up with a bunch of towels and I manned the mop. Several years ago, our lowest level would flood every time it rained hard, so we replaced the carpet with tile, and installed commercial six-inch rain gutters. We have a lot of roof to “drain”. Expensive, but it turned out to be one of the best investments in the house we’ve ever made. Now, it takes a downpour like Monday night’s to get us wet, and we can clean it up quickly. The sump pump ran almost continuously until about 10 PM.

I have a pretty good amateur weather station set up at home, and we got 1.76 inches of rain in 40 minutes at our south suburban Madison location. That’s a LOT of rain in a short time, a rate of almost three inches an hour, and that’s serious rainfall.

We were watching TV until DishNet gave out about 7:45. Channel 15’s David George said the cloud tops over Rock County were between 40 and 45 thousand feet – VERY unusually high – and since our dish looks south, there was just too much “weather” for the signal to get through. Our Charter broadband stayed up, though, so we were able to get weather coverage and radar on my wife’s iPad. DishNet popped back on about 8:45, when the storms south of us had moved away to the east.

I have railed year after year about the excesses of the local TV stations when there’s a storm; but, to be honest, I really think they’ve toned it down a bit. At least it seemed so, Monday night. All 3 stations – Channels 3, 15, and 27 – had their chief meteorologists on board; all had one of their principal news anchors contributing; and their coverage was WAY toned down compared to prior years. No gloom-and-doom; just the facts.

I sense the public still weighs in on my side of this weather coverage equation, because the anchors kept acknowledging the number of calls they were getting about interrupting programming, and re-stating their “policy” of staying on continuous weather coverage any time there’s a tornado warning in the area.

Local radio? WIBA-AM had the full crew on, going wall-to-wall with News Director Robin Colbert coordinating and anchoring the coverage, with live reports from all over Dane County and constant weather updates from the Channel 27 crew. My old alma mater, WTDY-AM, was in syndicated programming, with “Doctor” Drew and his locker room pals holding a disgustingly graphic discussion about anal sex. Fail.

The biggest media change I noted was Tuesday morning’s State Journal. A couple hundred words on page 3 of the print edition. Just a brief narrative about the regional aspects of the storm.

But – when I fired up the computer Tuesday morning and went to I found a great article about the storm, written by that crafty observer and talented wordsmith George Hesselberg, complete with details about local street flooding, regional affects of the storm, and accompanied by several interesting photos of the storm’s aftermath.

That’s a BIG change. The paper’s best and most compelling coverage of an event that everybody talked about all day Tuesday was not in their print edition, but in their online portal.

Toned-down local TV weather coverage, and the State Journal’s best stuff is online? Certainly the apocalypse is nigh.

1 comment:

  1. Tim: Because of the way the schedules work, I was on the web desk that day on a 5 a.m. ti 1 p.m. shift, so I was writing exclusively for the web. Which also meant I was hustling for photos, too. I was fortunate to have a hard news-loving web editor. I too looked for more weather stuff in the print edition, but that was a matter of timing. Curious times, these. Thanks for hi-ho.
    George Hesselberg