What Is Journalism?

It’s probably a good time to delve into this because there are two interesting journalism stories.

Who is a journalist? What is journalism? It’s probably a good time to delve into this because there are two interesting journalism stories unfolding today.

Who broke the John Edwards affair? The National Enquirer. Ouch, mainstream media. How’d you let that one slip away? And the Enquirer has been all over this story for a while. They also broke the Monica Lewinsky story. This is not your father’s, “Elvis Spotted At K-Mart” Enquirer.

I heard Steve Plamann, senior executive editor of the National Enquirer interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” today. He gladly admitted the paper’s sensationalist bent. They are after all, by his admission, a supermarket tabloid. But, does that disqualify them from being taken seriously or breaking stories?

Should the NY Times follow the Enquirer as they certainly do the Wall Street Journal or Washington Post? Do you disregard them at your own risk? I’ll answer my own question. They disregarded the Edwards story and it doesn’t reflect well on them.

Is the National Enquirer journalism? I think they are, but who makes this judgement?

The second journalistic fork in the road has to do with CNN’s decision to rely on more “one-man-bands” populating single person bureaus. Here’s how TVNewser reported it:

“Yesterday CNN announced it was expanding its domestic presence by opening bureaus in 10 U.S. cities. The press release called it a doubling of U.S. newsgathering. But when a 28-year-old company expands you can bet there will be changes to existing personnel too. And that is the case with CNN.

TVNewser has learned that after the announcement of the new bureaus and soon to be added “all-platform journalists,” nine CNN staffers were told their jobs were going to be redefined. We’re told the staffers are not being laid off, but being offered positions in the new structure.

The staffers work in cities including Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. As NPR’s David Folkenflik reported this morning, “let’s be clear [CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein] is only really talking about adding a handful of new staffers. Others will be redeployed in less-covered places like Columbus, Ohio, Orlando and Seattle.””

Is it less journalistcally pure when a single person covers a story instead of a crew? Is there something lost when a reporter also has to concentrate of his/her equipment during the time they used to be concentrating on the person speaking?

Video gear has become smaller, cheaper and easier to operate. I certainly could report and produce a news story on my own, but would that story suffer? I have colleagues who will argue the story will suffer and other friends, like Mike Sechrist, who truly believes we’re foolish to not take advantage of this technology.

There are a lot of constituencies involved here beyond the public who consumes this journalistic product. I am curious to see how this will shake out. This is a time when journalistic traditions might change rapidly.

First Named Storm – So?

I’ll answer his rhetorical question: Of course it wouldn’t have been named.

ZCZC MIATCPAT1 ALL

TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

BULLETIN

TROPICAL STORM ARTHUR SPECIAL ADVISORY NUMBER 1

NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012008

100 PM EDT SAT MAY 31 2008

…TROPICAL STORM ARTHUR…FIRST STORM OF THE 2008 ATLANTIC SEASON…QUICKLY FORMS NEAR THE COAST OF BELIZE…ALREADY MOVING INLAND.

Tropical Storm Arthur formed yesterday, and has deteriorated enough to now be ‘just’ a Tropical Depression.

It’s not all that unusual to have a named storm before the official opening of the hurricane season. I don’t draw any inference from that. However, with “A” given to a minimal storm, the season takes one quick step toward being more active than usual.

That brings up a great point made by Jeff Masters at Weather Underground.

Would Arthur have been named 30 years ago?

Arthur is one of those weak, short-lived tropical storms that may not have been recognized as a named storm thirty or more years ago. Arthur was named primarily based on measurements from a buoy that didn’t exist 30 years ago, and from measurements from the QuikSCAT satellite, which didn’t exist until 1999. There was one ship report that was used, though, and ship reports were heavily relied upon in the old days to name tropical storms.

I’ll answer his rhetorical question: Of course it wouldn’t have been named.

This is something many meteorologists point out to those who worry about an evolving atmosphere. As weather observations become more sophisticated, historical averages become that much less meaningful.

Email When Friends Are On-The-Road

Hopefully Wendie won’t mind as I share some of her Japanese trip with you. She’s a very learned woman… but she doesn’t capitalize. I’m going to leave these as sent.

My friend Wendie is somewhere between Tokyo and New York. She’s on her way back to Miami via JFK after a week long trip to Japan.

Yeah, I’m jealous.

Though Wendie didn’t bring a computer with her, she did keep her friends and family up-to-date by sending daily emails. I’m not sure if she stopped at Internet cafes or used a PC at her hotel. Whatever the method, it worked.

I find these on-the-road messages some of my favorite emails, not only from Wendie, but from any travelling friends. I hope you feel the same way when I post on the blog during my vacations.

Hopefully Wendie won’t mind as I share some of her Japanese trip with you. She’s a very learned woman… but she doesn’t capitalize. I’m going to leave these as sent.

Day One:

i’ve already scoped out the area around the hotel.. it’s called shinjuku.. lots of shops, a massive train/subway station.. and found an ATM that took my

u.s. card and spit out the proper amount of yen.. then even gave me my card back..

what more could you want!

Day Two:

i did the “city tour” thing.. ended up sitting next to a nice woman from north carolina. so, at stop number 3 we ditched the tour, and ended up exploring a fabulous neighborhood calls asakusa… we found these amazing plastic food stores, and yes, i did buy plastic sushi… but only a few pieces, it’s really expensive! then we took the subway back to the neighborhood we’re staying at, grabbed a snack..

Day Three

it’s been a busy day….at the crack o’ 5:45 am i went down to the tsukiji fish market.. a massive market complex on the river here.. and it was amazing.. they hold a huge tuna auction every morning that is closed to visitors, but once it’s over, thousands of vendors set up shop selling fish, food, and just about everything else. there are bunch of teeny little restaurants all through this complex that sell sushi or ramen.. and i stopped into one of them for the best tuna sushi i’ve ever eaten…it was awesome.. i have a ton of pictures of the market… excellent photo op.

Day Four

so… if you go to mt. fuji… but you never actually view mt. fuji, because it’s snowing, the entire region is socked in with fog, and the road to the 5th station (halfway up the mountain) is closed due to ice, so you can only go to the first station … can you claim to have seen mt. fuji? or is the more proper response to say you have BEEN to mt. fuji.

Day Five

in kyoto. getting here was great.. the bullet train was a blast..nothing

like going 257 kilometeres an hour through the japanese countryside.. it was terrific.. and just 2 quick hours from odawara to kyoto… kyoto is very different from tokyo… no high rise buildings, and many shrines and temples clustered together.. plus, a wierd train

station that is either a fabulous example of modern architecture.. or… a horrible depiction of wierdness.. depending on your point of view.

Day Six

this morning i played tourist, visiting a magnificent shinto shrine.. the “golden pavillion”.. which is in fact covered in gold.. it’s a gorgeous day, weather wise, and it has been a lot of fun. tonight is going to be interesting.. it’s a night at a ryokan, or japanese inn… it’s in the gion section of kyoto… the geisha section… so my bed will be a tatami mat! tomorrow i am doing an afternoon tour outside of kyoto to nara… which is about an hour away and has one of the world’s largest bronze buddhas… note to all.. when you come to japan be sure to try the green tea ice cream.. it’s fabulous!

Day Seven

yesterday was terrific… the ryokan was in a wonderful, old area of kyoto

and we wandered around and stumbled on a massive shinto temple complex with a park… it was sunday afternoon, gorgeous weather.. and the place was packed with families enjoying the day… lots of adorable kids.. the japanese love children, and i have had the best time playing peek-a-boo with kids everywhere.. on the bullet train, in the parks, in stores… even with no common language, making a child laugh is universal… the whole afternoon was .. well, i:ve pretty much run out of adjectives..

That’s just a taste. I only plucked a short snippet from each day’s email. I think it’s enough for you to get a real feel for her journey.

I can’t wait to see the photos and talk with Wendie to hear more.

I’m Not Flying This Plane

My folks should be in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic tonight. I have a cousin getting married there and they’re on their way for the wedding.

Of course nothing ever goes as smoothly as it should. The flight from Miami to Puerto Plata was canceled. I checked. It has run without fail for the last 61 days… OK, the last 60.

The pilot walked out of the cockpit and said, “I’m not flying this plane!” My dad says that’s a quote.

I have a rule. When the pilot doesn’t want to fly, you shouldn’t fly.

American says they’re on the same flight tomorrow. They have tickets and boarding passes. My dad wonders how they’re going to fit two days worth of passengers on one plane?

It’s possible this story isn’t over.

Oh – my folks are traveling with the parents of the groom. That plane had better take off!

My Beef With The Hurricane Center

Since Friday, I have traded emails with Ed Rappaport, director of the National Hurricane Center down in South Florida. He responded after I sent an email to two of his forecasters.

I was upset… No, I was livid the National Hurricane Center had decided to stop tracking and issuing bulletins and forecasts on Hurricane Noel Friday at 5:00 PM.

I’ve attached their final forecast discussion below. Two things to note. First, when they stopped their forecasting, Noel had already begun to take on non-tropical characteristics.

THE AIRCRAFT DATA ALSO INDICATED THAT NOEL STILL DISPLAYED A WARM CORE AND A FAIRLY TIGHT RADIUS OF MAXIMUM WINDS. SINCE THEN…THE INNER CORE CONVECTION HAS SUBSTANTIALLY DIMINISHED AND IS NOW INSUFFICIENT TO QUALIFY NOEL AS A TROPICAL CYCLONE. IN ADDITION…THE FSU CYCLONE PHASE SPACE DIAGRAM SUGGESTS THAT NOEL’S THERMODYNAMIC STRUCTURE IS BEGINNING TO BECOME ASYMMETRIC AND FRONTAL. THUS THIS WILL BE THE LAST NOEL ADVISORY.

Second, and much more importantly. Noel was going to get stronger!

BAROCLINIC FORCING SHOULD FURTHER INTENSIFY NOEL AS AN EXTRATROPICAL CYCLONE AS IT ACCELERATES TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST. ALL OF THE GLOBAL MODELS BOTH DEEPEN THE CYCLONE AND EXPAND THE HIGH WIND AREAS.

From a purely meteorological standpoint, NHC was correct. Noel was no longer a tropical system. They cover tropical systems – period.

That misses the point. The Hurricane Center’s job is to protect lives, not be meteorological purists.

When they stopped issuing forecasts, advisories, bulletins and maps, the job moved to the local forecast offices, like Taunton, MA and Upton, NY. Those offices have very capable forecasters (some of whom I’ve known for two decades).

Again, that’s missing the point.

By changing Hurricane Noel to an unnamed extratropical low, NHC signaled a diminished threat to the untrained public. That just wasn’t so.

There is already enough concern for public perception that the term “minimal hurricane” is no longer used in public bulletins.

Public safety officers, emergency managers and even broadcast meteorologists know exactly when and where to get data on tropical systems. It is specific and very different data than any other forecast product we get. The data from the local offices is totally different.

In the case of broadcasters, we all have equipment which automatically produces maps as the Hurricane Center’s data comes in! When that stopped, the ability to produce the most compelling and illuminating maps stopped. These maps made the case Noel meant business.

Based on the response I received from the director, I wonder if a “Hurricane of ’38” scenario would also see the Hurricane Center back off!

Something’s got to be done. That’s the bad news. The good news is, these are very bright people. I hope they find a way to change their policies before someone gets hurt.

Continue reading “My Beef With The Hurricane Center”

Yikes – Dean Gets Stronger

Earlier this evening, around 8:00 PM, The National Hurricane Center issued a statement saying Hurricane Dean had top winds of 155 mph.

DEAN IS AN EXTREMELY

DANGEROUS CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE.

SOME STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED LATER TONIGHT…AND DEAN IS LIKELY

TO BECOME A CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE PRIOR TO MAKING LANDFALL.

About a half hour later, based on recon data, Dean was upgraded to 160 mph.

000

WTNT64 KNHC 210034

TCUAT4

HURRICANE DEAN TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE

NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007

835 PM AST MON AUG 20 2007

DATA FROM THE AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT CURRENTLY

INVESTIGATING HURRICANE DEAN INDICATE THAT MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS

HAVE INCREASED TO 160 MPH…MAKING DEAN A POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC

CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE.

$$

FORECASTER KNABB

There’s really no practical difference between 155 mph and 160 mph. Wind force increases logarithmically with the wind speed. But there’s a great perception difference, because at 160 mph, Hurricane Dean becomes a Category 5 storm.

Should Dean strike the Yucatan Peninsula as a Cat 5, it will be the first Atlantic Basin Category 5 landfall since Andrew, 15 years ago!

The only good news is, Dean will be sufficiently south of Cancun to produce less damage than a direct hit. It’s still going to crush the region mercilessly.