Monday, April 12, 2010

Local TV Weather Nannies Push Back!

Fighter and bomber pilots say if you’re taking flack, you must be close to the target. Commenting on the YourNews version of this rant, Perry Boxx, the News Director at Channel 27, said it was “absolutely the dumbest article I’ve ever read about severe weather coverage” and took issue with me calling myself an “insider”. Brian Olson of the Channel 27 weather staff posted a long rebuttal, saying I don’t understand what those little rotating thingys they put up on the screen mean; he doesn’t like my trivialization of weather warnings; says “Severe Doppler” is not named to scare people; and claims Sioux Falls SD is an even bigger weather-nanny market.

I’ll get to that stuff in a moment.

I had about ten responses on the YourNews blog; YourNews Publisher Glen Gardner posted a link to my rant on his Facebook page Friday morning, and later in the morning I re-posted Glen’s link on my Facebook page. That generated about 40 more responses, via Facebook postings, confidential messages, comments to this blog, and direct e-mails to me from people who didn’t want to be publicly identified as commenting. (Those people really ARE insiders…every one of them a TV news employee.)

Mike L. posted on the YourNews blog that Bob Lindmeier was the only one who told people in Stoughton to take cover immediately, just before the tornado hit in August of 2005. Not counting what Perry Boxx and Brian Olson posted, Mike’s comment was the only one generated which did not further ridicule the excesses of local TV weather.

A sarcastic Madison man, J.A.K., posted “Severe Doppler will no doubt be replaced by Osama bin Terror Doppler in a year or so.” One well-known local reporter, P.S., posted “I loved this story…severe weather Doppler indeed!” Another friend, M.T., said when the local TV folks go into the wall-to-wall severe weather coverage, she mixes up a pitcher of margaritas and invites her neighbor over to watch. She also said she misses the late Jim Mader’s great, calm presence on local radio during storms.

My friend T.T. of Madison pointed out the excesses and scaremongering coverage have a "cry wolf" effect, which makes a lot of people simply ignore them.

D29 decried the over-the-top “severe” weather coverage in Milwaukee, and said “No kidding – it RAINS in spring here?” Two pals of mine who work in TV news in Green Bay, J.B. and B.K., opined that the severe weather coverage in their market HAS to be worse than Madison, and went on to describe the excesses. Another fellow I used to work with, S.B., said he learned a long time ago that you couldn’t trust the hype put out on local TV weather, and another former colleague, R.S., said TV goes into the “sky is falling” mode in his market whenever there’s a storm within 200 miles.

A Madison pal, M.M., said “we interrupt this post. A severe sarcasm alert has been issued for all of south central Wisconsin. High winds may carry away your sense of humor!”

That’s the thing. These TV weather folks do NOT have a sense of humor about this. They are on a mission to save lives, and there’s nothing remotely humorous about that. And, that’s why you cannot reason with them, and why they are convinced beyond challenge that their excesses are justified. They’ll never admit, and perhaps do not even acknowledge to themselves, that it’s all driven by marketing hype and it’s gotten out of control.

Some unsolicited advice to Brian Olson: you’d never make a good lawyer. Your post is full of what lawyers call “admissions against interest.” You admit that “Severe Doppler” is no more than a marketing tool; and saying Sioux Falls is worse than Madison is like saying “OK, I killed a few people, but Hitler killed more”. And those rotating thingys still look like tornado symbols to me. The point it makes is that your whiz-bang presentation is so arcane that only an “insider” can decipher it.

And Mr. Boxx, my sarcasm about being “an insider” is lost on you, but that happens a lot with me. I tend to be more sour than sweet. Any time you want to compare broadcast credentials, radio or TV, let me know. I’ll be glad to submit my national, regional, and local awards and recognitions from groups like the NAB, RTDNA, OCRB, WBA, and many other broadcast and print organizations in all the states I’ve worked in, to an independent judge for review. You might ask the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation who it hired last year to write its Kidder Broadcast News Resource Center website.

With a little research, I think you’ll find I have the credentials to be a broadcast critic.


  1. Morrissey calls out the storm blowhards. Hilarity and variable wind ensues. I am moved by it from bad to verse and, from my Hamlet, do proffer my abject apologies to William Shakespeare - whomever he really was.

    There's orders seal'd: and our fever'd forecasters,
    Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
    They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
    And would'st marshal me to quail before their knavery. Let it work;
    For 'tis the sport to have the engineers of this alarum
    Hoist with their own petard; and 't shall go hard.

    The weathermongers doth protest their innocence too much, methinks.

  2. I am an old radio guy, and I love love love severe weather coverage--it's the only time a gasbagging disc jockey can be sure people are hanging on his every word. But I also understand the importance of what I'm doing, because I've depended on radio weather coverage so often as a listener.

    So I take care not to hype it--either the coverage or the weather itself--while I'm doing it. Get the information on as fast as possible, yeah, explain the important details, yeah--but don't add to the audience's level of concern while doing it. When the sky is black and the wind is blowing like hell, they've got enough to worry about.

  3. It is not good to poke at The Hive.

  4. i have visited to this site and found to get the latest weather up date.

  5. Every time you see a local weather person on the air talking about severe weather it's backed up with a warning(s) issued by the National Weather Service. Take your complaint up with the NWS.