I’m still in the Smokeys and didn’t see any of the Memphis coverage of Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Drizzle Dennis. But Mike has some interesting observations over at www.HalfBakered.blogspot.com (thanks for the shout-out too Mike).
Weather coverage is important to local stations. I think it has become, in the past 10 years, the most important part of the broadcast. It’s the one thing tv does better than newspapers, radio and the internet. It is the one thing people come to local news to see. They can get the news of the day in the morning paper, they get sports scores and highlights from ESPN, but they can’t get local weather coverage from any other media source like they do from local tv. Local election coverage and breaking news (when it’s really news) are the only other areas that tv news departments own over other sources.
Of course, it’s always been that way, but only in the past 10-15 years have stations put such a high priority on local weather coverage. Back in the early 80s, some stations were still putting their weather forecast at the end of the newscast, even after sports.
Today, weather coverage can make or break the ratings. Bad weather in February, May and November can increase the number of viewers tuning in more than special series or reports. The thinking is simply…if we can get viewers to tune in during bad weather, they’ll always come back to us over the other guys.
So is it a surprise that a tv station hypes it’s weather? Nope.
I don’t know that 3 overhyped it’s coverage of Dennis. I didn’t see it.
I do know that meteorologists truly want to warn viewers of the potential of bad weather. The coverage area is huge. I’m not sure I’d say for sure it goes all the way to Central Mississippi, that’s Jackson tv stations. It’s their responsibility to warn viewers. The weathermen (and women) would take it personally if a storm hit and they didn’t warn viewers.
But there is a priority on weather coverage and sometimes that priority may cause tv stations to hype what ‘could’ happen but doesn’t. Watch this winter the first time there’s a chance of snow in the forecast. Watch how stations put reporters in supermarkets to gauge milk and egg sales. Watch the next time there’s a tornado watch or thunderstorm warning and see how they stay on the air saying the same things over and over again for hours (or as long as the watch or warning lasts).
They know people tune in for bad weather. It’s becoming the only reason to watch.