Nothing delights a broadcaster more than ‘dangerous weather.’ Be it a rapidly gathering thunder cell, a potential head-on collision between unsuspecting high and low pressure systems or Hurricane Ralph rapidly making its way up the East Coast, the media love to issue grave warnings, gather multiple man-on-the-street comments about the impending disaster, pan the empty shelves of neighborhood food marts and, of course, pass along oh-so-obvious safety tips.
With Manhattan chalking up record high temperatures the last few days, the local media have been in a round-the-clock frenzy, irresponsibly scaring unsuspecting viewers and turning a total, non- news story into “The great heat wave of 2012!”
Anchor: “Well, if you thought yesterday was horrific, just wait until today! For the latest on the great heat wave of 2012, let’s turn to meteorologist Carlos Santana Gomez in Central Park. Carlos: "It’s only 7am and you look like you’re absolutely sweltering.”
Gomez: “Christian, it’s like Death Valley here in the Sheep Meadow. My pit stains have pit stains. This is quickly shaping up to be a five shirt day for me. I’ve already sweated through two.”
Anchor: “Wow. Talk about combat duty. Hang in there. So, how bad will it actually be?”
Gomez: “As bad as it gets, Christian. As bad as it gets. If you don’t have to go outside today, don’t. It’s that simple.”
Anchor: “Not good. But, for those of us who work and have to go outside, what can we do to safeguard life and limb, Carlos?”
Gomez: “Water. Drink lots and lots of water. Dress in light clothes and, here’s the biggie- stay out of the midday sun.”
Anchor: “Super advice. And what about the very young and the very old?”
Gomez: “It’s heat stroke city for young and old alike, Christian. That’s because their immune systems aren’t quite as strong as the average adult’s.”
Anchor: “Thanks Carlos. Well, take some of your own advice and drink a big bottle of water, change that soaking wet shirt of yours and get out of the sun’s direct rays. Above all, stay safe. God speed to Carlos Santana Gomez and the rest of the WCBS-TV news, sports and weather team who are braving these triple digit temperatures. Now, on a much lighter note…”
I’ve been watching TV newscasts since my youth. And, I can verify that the hype and hyperbole increase with each passing year. I believe the media look forward to bad weather because there’s a very real opportunity it will, in fact, cause deaths. And, death is the gold standard of modern broadcast journalism.
A meteorologist may tell you the Three Hs stand for hazy, hot and humid. But, in reality, they apply to the media as a whole, and mean only one thing: hype, hype and more hype.