No surprise here, the National Association of Broadcasters is applauding the efforts of those who covered Hurricane Irene over the weekend.
Forget the fact that the broadcasters did what they do best, which is to exaggerate, the NAB sees it as a “remarkable” job done by those doing the reporting.
Yes, there were some great moments, but overall, the extensive coverage was not warranted and those who covered it, know it. But when you’re in that culture you get along, or you are forced out and they will find a “team player” who can drive the viewers to the next newscast by embellishing.
I could go through the long list of foolish live shots with a bush blowing in the breeze in the background and the reporter preaching doom and gloom. I’ve been through those live shots myself and have always worked to maintain perspective and tell it like it is. I always felt my obligation was to first be honest with the viewer. In fact, broadcasters will never admit this publically, but many of them think this coverage was silly. I’ve talked to them about it. It’s a running joke in newsrooms that when rain falls everybody must freak out and make the coverage bigger than life. You do it because consultants tell you their research says everybody in your town (this could be any town) feels weather is the most important element in the newscast. Perhaps it is, but a tropical storm did not warrant the coverage given. In isolated cases, yes, but overall—it did not. Irene was still being called a hurricane long after she had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Oh well—didn’t have time to change those scripts and the graphics.
I’m all in favor of proper warnings—you can even be overly cautious, if you’d like, but to keep up the hype with 2-3 foot swells “crashing” on to an empty, sandy beach, is a little much.
But we all know, if you encourage panic, the viewer will be back at 11 to find out the latest. Newsrooms have a vested interest in creating angst, be it personal, political, or weather related. They still think viewers haven’t caught on to this little fact.
Reporters will probably blame public officials for leading them astray, as they did with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but to that I would say, when do reporters just believe what public officials tell them? Enquiring minds want to know.
Dan Rather preaches “courage,” I will preach “context.” (BTW, he actually covered a real hurricane back in the day.)
I’m guessing that since it rained at the homes of Dianne Sawyer, Brian Williams and Scott Pelly that we all had to hear about it over and over and over and over again.
Oh, I understand the need to be prepared and be careful. The real “disaster” of Katrina was that the media told us that we should depend on government to save us and when they don’t, we blame them. Of course, that was politically motived (Evil Bush,) but the danger lingers in an attitude that government, be it local, state or national, will be our savior. I’ll call my local cops and fire department if I have a problem, but I know I’ve got to take care of myself first. This attitude that government can save us is a problem much bigger than the largest hurricane could ever be.
As for Irene, Crying Wolf comes to mind, not praise. That becomes dangerous when “The Big One” really does hit.