Hurricane Live Shots – Enough Already

I spent a lazy day around the house this afternoon. For much of the day, Comcast decided I didn’t need cable access – thanks.

For part of the afternoon I buzzed around the cable news channels and TWC. I saw a variety of “harm’s way” live shots and I’ve had it. Enough already.

Whatever it is that defines the words ‘public service,’ this is the opposite.

Part of what broadcasters do (maybe we did more back when we pledged to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity) is inform viewers. In the case of an approaching major hurricane, we should be informing them about the coming storm and proper safety procedures.

Having these cowboys (and cowgirls) on from the scene sends exactly the opposite message.

As was shown with the Columbia shuttle disaster (and I suppose Einstein talked about this a little too), even an object with low mass can be trouble if moving at a sufficiently high rate of speed. What won’t hurt you if hurtling at 120+ mph?

Can rocks and pebbles fell you? Sure. Will a tree branch or aluminum sign sever a limb? Possibly. Can you get killed in a dozen ways or more? Absolutely.

Reporters stand outside, between buildings, claiming they’re in a protected area? Doesn’t anyone remember the Richelieu Apartments in Pass Christian, MS? Sturdy, concrete construction – leveled.

Actually, the reporters have the advantage. They’re using both eyes. The photographer is myopically staring through the camera lens… robbed of peripheral vision and depth perception.

This is very different than tornado chasing, where the periphery of the storm is much more well defined. In tornadoes, no one tries to get inside the funnel.

More than anything, this just sends the wrong message to the general public. And, of course, it emboldens news directors and assignment desks to send more people and equipment into the storm. Competition is, after all, competition. Who wants to be beaten on a story like this?

I don’t want Jim Cantore, Anderson Cooper, John Zarella, Rick Sanchez or their unseen cameramen and producers, to die. But someone is going to die – and for what?

That’s what’s going to put a stop to this. Someone will die or be terribly injured. I will take no solace knowing I told you so.

Bogger’s note: I write something similar to this every year. You can see it’s had no effect at all

Television’s Quandary

I have spent a good part of this late evening playing poker and watching coverage on Hurricane Frances. Frances did come on shore, not far from Stuart, early Sunday morning.

This storm has been poorly forecast for the last few days.

Listen, I make forecast mistakes all the time – I am not claiming perfection by any means. On the other hand, I have seen a number of calls from the Hurricane Center which seemed to discard what was actually happening at the time. I have thrown up my hands in wonderment.

It’s really tough to take when there is a large staff of meteorologists consulting on each forecast, as there is at the Hurricane Center.

There is nothing else I want to see on television. Yet even with wall-to-wall coverage on cable news, and the ability to watch Channel 10 from Miami on our HD channel, there is too much filler and too little meat.

If anyone does get props, it would have to be CNN. They have done the best job from what I’ve seen. And, as much as I dislike the idea of reporters in the middle of weather that no one should be in, John Zarella has been excellent, as has their meteorologist, Rob Marciano.

The problem, of course, is at most times it’s impossible to get reports from the areas where the weather is the worst. You can’t transmit to satellites when the rain is heavy. You also can’t put the dish up to transmit when the wind is strong enough to rip it off the truck!

I believe this is more hurricane coverage than has ever been available. With the build-up to Frances, and the pictures from Charley, it was inevitable.

Frances is not the strongest hurricane, but its duration will be what’s remembered. There won’t be the destruction of homes that there was with Charley, but there will be lots of beach erosion and the kind of damage that happens when structures submit – as opposed to being instantaneously destroyed.

I will be curious to see the damage near Lake Okeechobee. It is my guess that structures aren’t quite as substantial, both because of its distance from the coast and the income of its inhabitants. Even with less wind, they will be creamed.

If this is a moderate hurricane, who would ever want to ‘weather out’ a strong one?