Monday, May 23, 2011

Egos run amok (unedited)

I know, they're doing their jobs, allegedly.

I have had it with storm coverage by local television stations. On Sunday a significant storm blew through the Minneapolis area. It killed one person and did major damage in a lower-income Minneapolis neighborhood. There's a need to alert and inform Twin Cities residents via local television during such storms, but to say local stations go overboard would earn you the Understatement of the Year Award.

Somehow storms are now called events. The media covers events, so therefore every storm now deserves storm coverage.

The problem with the coverage is that it requires improvisational skills many TV broadcasters don't have. And since it's "breaking news," they beautiful people are improvising with limited information. it's painful to watch.

Why do stations insist upon event overkill? Same reason every other media outlet exists, to make money. I've said it before, public service is a nice talking point in a sales pitch, and it's a good excuse to be in business, but in the end print and broadcast media outlets exist to make money for somebody. Nobody invests millions of dollars to break even at the end of the year.

The meteorologists and anchors who babble endlessly, sometimes for hours, on live TV should be ashamed of themselves. At minimum they should be embarrassed by the pompous display they put on during such events. But being a talking head requires a degree of arrogance, and I'd bet most of the windbags think they're doing us all a really big favor.

I don't mind that they cut in, but I don't need two hours of live video showing me downed trees and roofs blown off houses. I've seen it a million times. Showing me a city bus stopped on a main road through the neighborhood because a tree fell down in front of it, and then eventually behind it, doesn't fascinate me. Show the bus on top of the roof of a two-story apartment building, then you'll be showing me something worth the time.

The maps and scrolling updates suffice most of the time, but meteorologists have to get in front of the camera and lecture me about the storm, using their fancy graphics and magical powers to show me how much rain fell at every intersection in a 90-mile radius and exactly what time rain will fall 30 miles east of where it's raining at the moment.

The whole charade is counter-intuitive. If the weather is that bad in my suburb, I shouldn't be sitting there watching TV, I should be cowering under a table or praying in my bathroom. And do I really need a TV genius to tell me it's raining in my city when the windows of my apartment are shaking from the wind and being pelted by liquid bullets?

So who are they putting on a show for? Themselves.

Breaking in with details for a few minutes, that's warranted. Conducting interviews with an Average Joe trying to describe the sound of the storm when it hit a neighborhood, not necessary. Even worse than the tired footage of downed trees and decapitated houses, the live telephone interview of somebody at the scene.

Unfortunately for the viewing public the live event coverage isn't going away. "Chief" meteorologists and anchors drop what they're doing to run to the station and provide their valuable insight. It's despicable.

My favorite moments from the 15-20 minutes of coverage I watched:
• Little Weather Boy was showing uploaded photos and videos from the storm on his station's Facebook page. I swear they pointed a camera at a computer monitor and he clicked through photos on Facebook.
• Ian Douglas (or is he Paul Leonard) made sure to have his shirt and tie on for Sunday's event coverage. I ran across him on Saturday afternoon, when a minor event also prompted live coverage. Ian was wearing some ugly, untucked shirt. He looked hilarious taking himself so seriously in that shirt.
• One of the channel 5 bimbos described what we were watching after the storm, through the miracle of live television. As people were cutting up fallen trees with chainsaws, she remarked how you could see standing water from the storm underneath the trees. Wow, rain puddled during a storm!

One person died during Minnesota's event on Sunday. Another guy died working to clear trees. People were hurt. Many homes were significantly damaged. Our state was overshadowed by the devastating tornadoes of Missouri, but this was still a major storm by our standards, and worthy of the time and attention it is getting after it is all over. But once again a storm proved it can't compete with an unnatural disaster: the TV broadcasting ego.

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