Paula: If You Didn’t Know There Was A Hurricane There…

From time-to-time people talk about the frequency of hurricanes claiming there are more hurricanes now than ever before. Please take that claim with a grain of salt.

From time-to-time people talk about the frequency of hurricanes claiming there are more hurricanes now than ever before. Please take that claim with a grain of salt.

I will let the Hurricane Center do my explaining for me. This is the lead paragraph in the current technical discussion on Hurricane Paula.

A HURRICANE IS CROSSING BETWEEN THE WESTERN TIP OF CUBA AND EASTERN YUCATAN…BUT WITHOUT MODERN TECHNOLOGY NO ONE WOULD KNOW IT WAS THERE.

This is not to say there aren’t going to be problems. I expect rain, flooding and even mudslides in Cuba. Still, if you didn’t know there was a hurricane there you wouldn’t know there’s a hurricane there.

Before the advent of satellites we might still be waiting for the “P” storm to form!

Something Fox News Is Doing Right!

Today Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The Washington Post and others have positioned themselves and their coverage away from the middle. That puts them under the microscope as political opponents scour for weakness which can be used to embarrass them.

fnc-logo.jpgWelcome to journalism in the 21st Century. The ‘right down-the-middle’ mantra of the last half century is gone. We’re back to journalism practiced by partisans.

Yeah–back to. This is how it used to be.

Here’s a little Wikipedia refresher on William Randolph Hearst. I suspect you’ll be surprised!

As Martin Lee and Norman Solomon noted in their 1990 book Unreliable Sources, Hearst “routinely invented sensational stories, faked interviews, ran phony pictures and distorted real events.” This approach came to be known as yellow journalism, named after the Yellow Kid, a character in the New York Journal’s color comic strip Hogan’s Alley.

Hearst’s use of yellow journalism techniques in his New York Journal to whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair’s 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst’s newspaper employees were “willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war.” Sinclair also asserted that in the early 20th century Hearst’s newspapers lied “remorselessly about radicals,” excluded “the word Socialist from their columns” and obeyed “a standing order in all Hearst offices that American Socialism shall never be mentioned favorably.” In addition, Sinclair charged that Hearst’s “Universal News Bureau” re-wrote the news of the London morning papers in the Hearst office in New York and then fraudulently sent it out to American afternoon newspapers under the by-lines of imaginary names of non-existent “Hearst correspondents” in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin, etc.

Hearst is just the easiest example of what’s certainly a long list. Rupert Murdoch is a lot less of an outlier than he’s portrayed.

Today Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The Washington Times, New York Post and others have positioned themselves and their coverage away from the middle. That puts them increasingly under the microscope as political opponents scour for weakness which can be used to embarrass them.

Jon Stewart has mastered the art. He often shows FNC on both sides of the same argument, depending on the political winds at any given moment. Recently he showed Fox using video from one event as coverage of another more sparsely attended event.

Last week Fox did it again. Sarah Palin video from the presidential campaign was used as B-roll for a book signing appearance. An anchor talked about the “huge crowds.” Oops.

Maybe, even for Fox, enough is enough. Here’s an internal memo passed along by MediaBistro’s FishbowlDC.

Subject: Quality Control We had a mistake on Newsroom today when a wrong book cover went on screen during a guest segment, the kind of thing that can fall through the cracks on any day with any story given the large amount of elements and editorial we run through our broadcasts. Unfortunately, it is the latest in a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months. We have to all improve our performance in terms of ensuring error-free broadcasts. To that end, there was a meeting this afternoon between senior managers and the folks who run the daytime shows in which expectations were reviewed, and the following results were announced: Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the “mistake chain,” and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews. So we now face a great opportunity to review and improve on our workflow and quality control efforts. To make the most of that opportunity, effective immediately, Newsroom is going to “zero base” our newscast production. That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today’s meeting: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.” We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again. Please know that jobs are on the line here. I can not stress that enough. I will review again during our Monday editorial meeting, and in the days and weeks ahead. This experience should make us stronger editorially, and I encourage everyone to invest themselves one hundred and ten percent in this effort.

The memo has a message for all newsrooms of all political persuassions: Content trumps presentation.

If the reason for these most recent screw-ups is a rush to make the broadcast look pretty or flashy the emphasis is wrong. Facts need to be correct before worrying about production values.

This isn’t going to change FNC’s slant. They’ll continue to cover news from a right-of-center perspective. I actually have little problem with that. It just looks like the effort will be made to sell their points from a more factual base.

Of course it’s also possible the memo was leaked to provide easy political cover while nothing changes! We’ll have to wait and see.

Gustav’s Amazing Growth Spurt

The wind, nearly doubled in speed, has almost four times the power. The rule of thumb says it will destroy eight times as much as last night’s storm would.

The ability of a hurricane to rapidly increase in intensity never ceases to amaze me. Last night when I went to bed Gustav had a top sustained wind speed of 80 mph. Now, less that 12 hours later it’s 145 mph! The wind, nearly doubled in speed, has almost four times the power. The rule of thumb says it will destroy eight times as much as last night’s storm would.

This radar image is a snapshot in time. Part of the power of the Internet this is an image I never had access to–direct from the Cuban government’s weather bureau&#185. Gustav is about to attack the Isle of Youth (formerly the Isle of Pines) and its 100,000 residents.

I expect the storm to weaken as it passes over Western Cuba then strengthen again in the Gulf.

I’ve written about this before and discussed it often with my friend Bob. There is an internal balance necessary for a hurricane to get to 140 mph or more. That speed is almost impossible to maintain for any length of time. Gustav will see its intensity pulse up-and-down once it reestablishes itself in the Gulf. Hopefully, landfall will come as it is diminishing.

&#185 – It’s interesting that the Instituto de Meteoologia de la Republica de Cuba–part of a ‘people’s paradise,’ finds it necessary to add: “Copyright © 1997-2008. INSMET ® Todos los derechos reservados ” Am I surprised? Todo-lly.

Gustav Now On My Radar

The route is totally different from Katrina’s, but the projected destination is eerily similar.

Three years ago today I was on the phone with Farrell’s mom Ruth, try to get her out of New Orleans. Here’s what I wrote that day. Now I’m worried about New Orleans again.

Gustav is south of Cuba, heading toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The route is totally different from Katrina’s, but the projected destination is eerily similar.

Much of the controlling mechanism behind hurricanes is seasonably predictable. At different times in the hurricane season different areas are favored for development and track. It’s not a big surprise a potential hurricane is aiming at the mid-Gulf Coast on Katrina’s anniversary week.

Gustav will gain strength. It’s tough to think it will go anywhere but the Gulf. I’m scared it will plow into the Gulf Coast states. I hope I’m wrong. It’s a hope I have too often during the hurricane season.

Charley Meet Fay

I remember Charley blossomed very quickly before landfall.

fay forecast.gifTropical Storm Fay’s track is starting to resemble Hurricane Charley’s. Charley hit Florida’s west coast four years ago this past week. Certainly, Charley took a more southerly path getting there, avoiding Hispanola and the interaction Fay is having with Cuba’s landmass. From here on out the forecast tracks are very similar.

I remember Charley blossomed very quickly just before landfall.

Charley rapidly intensified, strengthening from a 110 mph (180 km/h) hurricane with a minimum central barometric pressure of 965 mbar (hPa; 28.50 inHg) to a 145 mph (230 km/h) hurricane with a pressure of 941 mbar (hPa; 27.49 inHg) in just 6 hours. The storm continued to strengthen as it turned more to the northeast, and made landfall near the island of Cayo Costa, Florida as a 150 mph (240 km/h) Category 4 hurricane at approximately 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 UTC) on the 13th. An hour later, the hurricane struck Punta Gorda as a 145 mph (230 km/h) storm. However, the eye had shrunk before landfall, limiting the most powerful winds to an area of 6 nautical miles (11 km) of the center.

Fay will cross Cuba a weaker storm. Cuba is quite mountainous (ask Fidel), the hurricane’s mortal enemy. However, the Gulf is very warm this time of year–explosively warm.

Hurricane Dean – Living Up To Its Billing

At work, we’ve got new graphics computers and software. With Dean in the Atlantic, I’ve been giving them a workout… or at least better learning how to use them. These storms can be tracked, predicted and shown in a variety of ways.

Right now, the Hurricane Center says Dean has sustained winds of 135 mph. I’m more likely to agree with NHC tonight than last night. Dean has become a classic hurricane with a well defined eye.

I popped over to the San Juan, PR radar and watched the outer bands spin as the storm passed to the south. Later, the huricane will be visible from a radar at Guantanamo and a few (if they’re working) on Cuba.

It will not be a good weekend in Jamaica. The official call brings Hurricane Dean right over the spine of that mountainous island Sunday. In that scenario you get devastating wind and rain, storm driven tides and huge mudslides. The Caymans aren’t much better off.

It’s possible tonight’s 135 mph is near Dean’s peak. Even if he does strengthen (as forecast), there is a limit. It’s tough for a storm to maintain 150+ mph winds for long before internal forces begin to break down the storm.

There’s lots of watching to come. Dean will be ‘on the books’ until midweek next week.