The Beast had been grumpy of late. Highly-touted Hurricane Earl, predicted by many tri-state weathermen to be the worst hurricane to threaten New York since 1938, had hung a right turn instead and headed out to the Atlantic. So, instead of downed power lines, battered beaches and terrified citizens, the media Beast was left with hours and hours of ‘filler’ time. The ‘total team coverage’ every station had set to go had to stand down. And, most maddening of all for the Beast, the anticipated ratings increases never materialized.
Then, like manna from heaven, came yesterday’s mother of all storms. And, trust me, it was a world-class event of biblical proportions. Thunder, lightning, hail and incredibly strong winds shook Manhattan like a rag doll, shut down power at my beloved Penn Station and ended up stranding tens of thousands of Long Island Railroad commuters (note to tri-state readers: Ever wonder why the most horrific traffic, weather and news always seems to impact Long Island?).
The media Beast gorged itself on the storm’s offerings. Regular programming was interrupted. Teams were dispatched to scores of severely-affected areas in Brooklyn, Queens and, of course, the Island. Cameras showed downed trees, smashed cars and storefront windows blown to smithereens. It simply didn’t get any better for the Beast. Soon, reports began coming in that the storm might, in fact, have been a tornado. The Beast loved the ‘T’ word and continued suggesting such an event had, indeed, occurred.
The Beast’s representatives also succeeded in interviewing countless storm victims and somehow, some way, induced each and every one to agree that he or she had never, ever, seen the likes of Thursday’s storm (i.e. “I’ve been living in Bed-Stuy for 51 years and I’ve never seen nothing like this!”).
It was good. Very good. The coverage went on throughout the night and into the early morning. As might be expected, the Beast positioned camera crews at Penn Station this morning to intercept incoming Long Islanders. ‘How was your commute?’ shouted one CBS reporter to a passenger. ‘Fine. Just fine,’ she replied. Undaunted by such a positive response, the reporter kept his head and nailed the commuter with a follow-up: ‘But, last night was horrible, right?’ The commuter smiled, shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘such is life’ and continued on. Damn. That was not good. There was no hype. No fear. No indication that this particular person’s world hadn’t been crushed like so many trees.
But, back in the studio, all was well. The weatherman beamed as he relayed the news that the National Weather Service was conducting an investigation and would decide sometime later today if, in fact, yesterday’s storm had been a tornado. Wow. A tornado in Manhattan? It simply doesn’t get any better for the Beast.
And, so, as the hype and ersatz concern in the voices of reporters began to fade away, the Beast began to hunker down. It was content knowing it had done everything possible to not only cover but, indeed, escalate the drama and hype of this gift from heaven. The Beast had been fed.