Rain’s A Big Deal Here

Meteogram Generator

We do a seven day forecast at KMIR. Yesterday I mentioned Day Eight. It got a shout out (as Day Seven) again tonight. That’s because there’s rain forecast next Thursday.

The actual value to rain in the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs area) is debatable. We average less than six inches per year. The majority of our water comes from an underground aquifer. It would be long gone if not supplemented by water piped in from Parker Dam on the Colorado River. Rainfall seeping down is a small piece of our specific puzzle.

Nature doesn’t provide nearly enough to support our population and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who arrive every week during the season.

Whether rainwater helps or not, people in the valley value it. Mentioning rain here is like mentioning snow in New England. It grabs your attention.

If you break down next Thursday’s rain forecast over Palm Springs, it comes to .06″. Tiny. Hardly noticeable.

A forecast for that small amount of liquid a week away is chancy at best, especially when you throw in:


Wish us luck. It will get my attention on every newscast.

Jon Stewart And Brian Williams

Today’s outcome for both Jon Stewart and Brian Williams saddens me. And, in the end, shouldn’t it be all about the viewer?


A real one-two punch today. Brian Williams suspended for six months, then Jon Stewart announcing he’s leaving The Daily Show. I’ll start with Stewart.


There was no way I saw this coming. It would be different if Rosewood, his directorial debut, had gotten rave reviews. He is walking away from the goose tha lays the golden egg!

Today Jon Stewart is a powerful political force. Attention from The Daily Show can swing public opinion.

He undoubtedly understands the powerful voice he commands doesn’t leave the show with him. Just ask Glenn Beck, Howard Stern or Oprah. They left over-the-air broadcasting for positions with less visibility and influence.

Fifteen years is a long time. Stewart, especially after the movie, doesn’t seem as passionate. There are more movie star interviews and fewer examples of Stewart as TVs only interviewer who actually read the book. Better to quit before that lack of drive becomes too obvious?

I will miss The Daily Show. It’s the only show I watch even if I can’t fast forward through the ads.

Selfishly, I’ll be sad.

Brian Williams situation is a little more complex. NBC says he’s suspended for six months without pay. He’s a union employee. Suspensions only happen like this if negotiated with Williams’ full agreement and everyone signs off.

I’ve never met Brian Williams, but I know folks who’ve worked with him. I’ve never heard a bad word–and I would have. He’s always been cited as the kind of guy you want in your newsroom.

We all fall victim to puffery. Everyone inflates their resume a little. This is more than most. Maybe it is an actionable offense?

However, Brian Williams deserves to have his transgressions weighed against the total of his professional life. There’s a little Geoff self pity in that last sentence.

Should Brian Williams’ penalty be a life sentence? I don’t think so, but not strongly enough that my opinion might not change over time.

Today’s outcome for both Jon Stewart and Brian Williams saddens me. And, in the end, shouldn’t it be all about the viewer?

When TV Asks For Your Help

Would viewers have supported CBS had they known this is how their support would be used? Did CBS have an obligation to tell the viewers this was their agenda?

dish fox oreilly

​With carriage battles between TV stations/networks and cable/satellite distributors becoming more vicious, viewers are being called upon to help save their favorite stations/networks.

In the abstract that seems fine. However, after CBS enlisted their viewers help against DISH, they then negotiated a partial neutering of Dish’s Hopper feature. Hopper allows viewers who record shows to skip the commercials.

From the NY Times December 6: ​”​As part of the agreement, people will not be able to skip commercials with the Hopper service for CBS-owned network stations and affiliates for the first seven days after a program is televised. Television networks have been pushing advertisers to buy commercial time based on ratings from that seven-day period.​”​

Would viewers have supported CBS had they known this is how their support would be used? Did CBS have an obligation to tell the viewers this was their agenda?

Fox is currently in a similar dispute with DISH. During this weekend’s NFL playoffs I watched Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly asking for support for Fox News Channel, accusing DISH of “censoring​” FNC.

My (rhetorical) question to them is, are you ​too ​asking your viewers to help you achieve something that’s not in those viewers best interests?​ Will your viewers support cost those same viewers cash, convenience or access to technology?

Is censorship really the sticking point in this business dispute?

To Build A Studio

The wall separating the kitchen and garage will turn Behr Sparkling Apple, latex flat.

I start at KMIR on the first from the studio. After a while the plan is to sometimes use a studio at my house.

It might be the first case of a TV anchor anchoring from home. In radio it’s fairly common.

Every bit of weather data I need is available online. Distant computers can be controlled remotely. I might not have a window, but I’ll have everything else.

The trick is to make my home studio functionally the same as the station’s. There aren’t that many pieces. Nearly all are recent inventions leveraging the increasing speed of digital electronics.

My biggest concern is lag. How long does the video take to go from my garage to the station?

We ran a test from my next door neighbor’s house. At .8 seconds it’s fast enough for live conversation.

The weather graphics still get created on the computer at the station with the files FTPed here. A TriCaster Mini, a little TV control room in a box, will put all the components together. Clicker controlled!

My studio needs a camera, lights, some ancillary equipment and more power from the box outside. The wall separating the kitchen and garage will turn Behr Sparkling Apple, latex flat.

The video will travel point-to-point over the Internet with a special encoder on each end. It’s the same technology that’s made TV live trucks mostly superfluous.

I am concerned about the garage’s acoustics. It is VERY echoey. A lot of it has to be the door. I will experiment with blankets hung in front of it. My friend Peter says “Carpet on the walls.” Maybe. I’m very unsure. It will be corrected.

Lots to be done, starting now.

Don’t Go To Sleep Yet

hdr_branding.jpg  980×108Earlier this afternoon I met with the news director and general manager of KMIR in Palm Springs. I am thrilled to announce I start on January 1st.

There’s more.

I’ll be doing some of my broadcasts from a studio I’m building in my garage. I’ll still be live with realtime interaction with the anchors. We just won’t be in the same room.

Some of my friends from Channel 8 will remember me talking about this idea years ago. The technology and time is right. With this setup I’ll be able to offer my services to other stations as well, no matter where they’re located.

I’m super excited about KMIR and will be devoting lots of time to make sure everything works perfectly.

Quite honestly, it’s pretty cool.

Why Must I Wait For The Daily Show You’ve Seen?

Out here on the west coast we get mostly leftovers. If there’s voting in a show, usually we can’t. If the font screams LIVE, probably not for us.

Stewart Mocks Obama  Can’t He Condemn Russia Just a Little Faster    Mediaite

Like clockwork, every night asap Mediaite.com posts most/all of Jon Stewart’s first block. It’s 8:53 PM PDT as I type and what you see above is now online.

The Daily Show doesn’t air here for another two hours!

I’ll admit it, this is a first world, 21st Century problem. But it gnaws at me.

Out here on the west coast we get mostly leftovers. If there’s voting in a show, we can’t. If the font screams LIVE, probably not for us. Facebook and Twitter conspire nightly to spoil all the tube’s surprises.

This kind of TV worked 20 or 30 years ago. There’s no good reason to hold back now, except to protect someone’s outdated business model.

I’m waiting for the show. Stewart is best watched in context. He’d better be funny.

The Weather Websites I Use

This is my every once-in-a-while weather website recommendations. These are not the only sites with this data, just the ones I favor.

I’ve been forecasting the weather over thirty years. There have been a boatload of changes and improvements. We used to spend a fortune acquiring data at Channel 8. Now it’s all online and free.

This is my every once-in-a-while weather website recommendations. These are not the only sites with this data, just the ones I favor.

HRRR Model Fields   ExperimentalI use a lot of government data and government sites. They are not the splashiest, but they’ve got just about everything.

For models like the GFS or NAM.

For the short term, high res HRRR. The user facing side of this site is awful, but the HRRR is worth using.

NWS EDDFor greatly customizable maps on the fly, it’s EDD, again from NOAA. EDD has the feel of a freight elevator hung on a building under construction. Nearly everything works, but you’ve got to watch your step. EDD often requires a page reload to clear its foggy head.

A lot of what EDD does Wundermap does too, plus it has the European model! Wundermap is from Wunderground, weather geeks online since the Internet was young. They’re now owned by the Weather Channel’s parent company.

Severe Weather, SPC. The mesoscale analysis section of the site is crazy. You can delicately slice and dice the atmosphere looking for the signs of severe weather.

An admission. I don’t understand the significance of everything they make available.

For tropical weather I hit Dr. Bob Hart’s site at Florida State for individual models and Wisconsin for spaghetti plots.

The most valuable item from the Hurricane Center is the tech discussion. The lead forecaster describes the factors weighed making the forecast. It’s a different url for each storm, but you can find the discussion from their home.

By the way, for anything… and I mean anything that comes from the weather service in text form, I run to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet site.

I wish stuff would come faster. I wish maps would get larger. So many are still sized for a world where 800 pixels across was wide.

Comedy Central Picks Larry Wilmore To Replace Colbert


Isn’t Friday when you release news you want forgotten? Then why has Comedy Central chosen today to say who’s replacing Steven Colbert?

NEW YORK, May 9, 2014 – Comedy Central has pulled from the ranks of “The Best F*&#ing News Team Ever!” and today announces the Emmy® Award-winning Larry Wilmore as the host of the #1 brand in comedy’s next great late night franchise. Wilmore will take over the highly-coveted post-“Daily Show” time slot in January 2015 as host of “The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore,” a comedic look at news, current events and pop culture from unique perspectives not typically on display in late night television. The series was created by Jon Stewart and will be produced by Stewart’s Busboy Productions with Stewart and Wilmore serving as Executive Producers.

Much will be made of Wilmore’s race and how this hiring adds diversity to TV. Sure. However Wilmore is the funniest intellectual voice on TV today. He’s the right choice black, white or transparent.

Smart move on Comedy Central’s part. I can’t wait to watch.

David Letterman Is Retiring

David Letterman autographed photoSome presents are meant to be remembered. While we were dating, Helaine got me an autographed photo of David Letterman. This was at the beginning of the morning show era. He was my hero.

What a caring gift. Thank you again, baby.

David Letterman has done some of the funniest off-the-wall material seen on TV. Not recently.

Since the heart attack? Since his affair? Since the birth of Harry? At some point his TV spark went away.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d see him tomorrow. I’m still a huge fan. He is not doing his best work today.

letterman-ticketWith Leno gone and Jimmy Fallon very strong out of the gate, it’s time. He said so a few nights ago.

So, who? The NY Post says CBS likes Colbert.

Are they talking the character he currently plays or legit Stephen Colbert? Is either a good choice? With the real Stephen, you risk fans who might not like his actual persona as much as his alter ego and feel cheated.

I like Jon Stewart a lot. That choice would make me happy and I think he could be a force.

letterman-studioHoward Stern is a good choice too. He’s intellectually curious and a great interviewer. Does he play close to the line a little too often for CBS? Maybe.

Stern had major public battles with Les Moonves who runs the network and its attendant empire. It got very nasty.

Does money trump personal animosity? Here? In SoCal? In show biz? Survey says, yes!

CBS needs to hit a home run. Late night is fabulously profitable in an era of pinched bottom lines. They will suffer greatly without the revenue Letterman brought.

This will be interesting to watch. Dave said his run ends in 2015.

Upheaval In Television

dodgers logoIt’s my understanding the Dodgers just swept a pair from Arizona. Did Vin Scully accompany the teams to Australia? I don’t know. Forty miles from Los Angeles, I’m shut out!

Cable subscribers comprising two thirds of the market are in the same boat.

There’s a money dispute with the new Dodger network. New owners paid lots for the team and broadcast rights. Now they have to recoup.

They probably paid too much. They want me to make it better.

Friday night’s game was on MLB Network. It was blacked out for us even though it wasn’t played locally and there was no other way to see it. That’s a slimeball move.

Once again viewers are caught in the crossfire.

The Weather Channel’s off DirecTV. Some markets have temporarily lost their local network affiliates. It’s a mess.

Lots of people pay for ESPN every month though they have no interest in sports. You’ve got to take the package. Got to!

I can watch some channels and shows on my tablet, but I’m not allowed to plug the table into my TV. One cable! The rights owners say no.

From where I sit the only parties not represented are us, the viewers.

The technology exists for all of us to watch what we want when we want it and on whatever platform we choose. It’s fair to say we want what technology could easily bring today. Why aren’t we getting it?

Established businesses will suffer, but that’s always a risk of business. We are entitled to benefit from technological advances. Instead, deals made out of our sight restrict our access. How are these in the public interest?

There will be an upheaval in what used to be called television. The legacy operators are fighting it, but how long can they prevail?

Malaysian Airlines News And Speculation At CNN

Malaysia_Airlines_Boeing_777-2H6ER;_9M-MRG@ZRH;07.08.1998_(4794758296)I have to hand it to CNN. There’s no story I’m interested in as much as the Malaysian Airlines disappearance. They’re pouring everything they’ve got on it. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, with little new info or new info fragments, CNN has turned to speculating. I’ve heard Wolf Blitzer try and pin the rumors on others, but when it’s your megaphone that’s giving voice to these rumors you inherit responsibility. You can’t just attribute it away.

If I was in charge of CNN what would I do? I don’t know. The audience gains from all this wall-to-wall theory porn are appealing. CNN needs to stay profitable. So much temptation.

This is very similar to the steps that moved local TV news away from difficult-to-report issue stories to the crime/anecdote stories which now dominate.

CNN is seeing short term gain, but what is the long term price?

Dear Weather Channel

Dear Weather Channel,

I heard the news. DirecTV is playing hardball. They’ve pulled the plug and covered your old channel with WeatherNation. Harsh.

Here’s the problem. No one will show you sympathy while you make claims that are over-the-top.

The consequences of removing it from 20 million households are detrimental to public safety. That’s why Congress and DIRECTV need to understand the risks to your local community. – KeepTheWeatherChannel.com

You business is weathertainment. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s an honorable pursuit.

People don’t watch as much when the weather’s tranquil. Your move to long form reality makes more sense when taken within that context.

You’re spending more on production. You’ve brought in more experts–some excellent. Your travel budget is large. You have carved out your niche.

When weather is the story, you’re America’s number two choice!

Sorry. Local media always covers storms with more specificity and detail. They always do a better job. Always.

Someone recently gave me the TV ratings from the Oklahoma City tornado outbreak. While warnings were in effect, local news received over 90% of the viewers. TWC was down in the weeds somewhere.

The Weather Channel was a great way to follow the storms from Cleveland, Des Moines or Los Angeles. Oklahoma City needed local info in ways you just can’t do.

Even you wouldn’t have the cajones to tell people to turn away from local coverage and follow threatening weather with you.

You do what you do well. It’s time you come to grips with what that is.

All the best,

In A Pissing Match Everyone Gets Wet


The Weather Channel and DirecTV have gone past the end of their carriage agreement with no new contract in sight. Let the PR games begin!

It’s only been the last few years that cable companies, satellite providers, stations and networks began airing their disputes in public, asking for your help to make sure channels don’t disappear. That makes me uncomfortable.

From my vantage, this dispute seems the most public and potentially ugliest so far. The Weather Channel is both DirecTV’s supplier and competitor–mostly owned by NBC/Universal, which itself is owned by Comcast! Comcast has to be careful they’re not teaching their suppliers how to beat them at their own game!

The Weather Channel of 2014 isn’t the same service that John Coleman began in 1982. Back then it was 100% weather presented without much sizzle. Today’s TWC is much more slickly packaged with lots of non-weather programming. DirecTV says, “more than 40 percent of The Weather Channel’s programming is dedicated to reality television shows.”

Beyond that, its iconic “Local on-the-8s” forecast is no longer uniformly delivered. In Connecticut, Comcast didn’t provide the local forecast on TWC’s HD channel. The forecast on TWC’s standard def channel was for the shoreline and often inapplicable where I lived a few hundred feet up on Mount Carmel. Here in Irvine, AT&T Uverse doesn’t provide it at all.

It’s also a problem for DirecTV subscribers.

Since we are a national service provider, we’re unable to offer local updates through The Weather Channel the way that local-based companies can.

The Weather Channel is facing a financial reality some all news channels are also facing. People watch when the weather’s compelling and don’t when it isn’t. That’s part of the reason for the move into (easily preempted) unscripted non-fiction.

weathernationThe wild card in all this is DirecTV’s ace in-the-hole, WeatherNation. A few weeks ago DirecTV began carrying WeatherNation right next to The Weather Channel. Begun by Paul Douglas, a Minneapolis area meteorologist for years and innovator in computer graphics, WN reminds me of the ‘old’ Weather Channel. It’s all weather with clean graphics, nothing fancy. It looks like a lean operation with the on-camera meteorologists acting as their own director, switching the show live on-air.

The Weather Channel is pushing back on-air and on-line. Jim Cantore, their most recognizable meteorologist/personality, has become the company spokesman.

But now DIRECTV is threatening to remove this critical life-saving community resource from 20 million households.

The problem is TWC probably isn’t where you should go when weather is critical. You’re nearly always better served going to a source which specifically concentrates on your specific area.

In the end this dispute isn’t about competition or technology or even “life-saving.” This is about money and power. When an agreement is reached (it will be) both DirecTV and The Weather Channel will shut up and play on.

Today it’s a pissing match and unfortunately, in a pissing match everyone gets wet!

The Roger Ailes Bio Is Brutal!

loudest ovice in the room-w1400-h1400I’m reading an excerpt from Gabriel Sherman’s new book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” It’s an unauthorized biography of Roger Ailes. What I’ve read so far is brutal.

He said he would never send Zachary to the public school because it was overrun with liberalism. At his window, he pointed at an outdoor sculpture exhibit at Boscobel House and Gardens, a half-mile in the distance. “Do you think they have the right to block my view?” Roger asked. “Isn’t it their property?” Foley asked. “It’s not their property! It’s a nonprofit! They get tax breaks!” Roger replied. He spoke of his security more than once. “He worried about his kid and his wife and said he wouldn’t want anything to happen to them because of what he was,”

If Sherman’s account is to be believed, Ailes is a paranoid, controlling, dickish son-of-a-bitch who gets his way by taking no prisoners! The excerpt doesn’t say Ailes is unhappy, but how can he not be? He is described as one troubled man.

What Ailes built at Fox News is astounding. He’s left both CNN and MSNBC in his dust. It’s not an accident. This is Ailes doing. Fox News consistently provides a broadcast easily digestible by its target audience. It is remarkably effective.

Recent reports say Ailes made disparaging remarks about his ‘stars,’ like Bill O’Reilly, but he mostly appears to be strongly supportive of his talent. Fox News pioneered talent-centric broadcasts in cable news. Outwardly, he seems the boss I always wanted.

If Ailes’ reported temper and vindictiveness can be believed, maybe Sherman should be looking over his shoulder as he reports Ailes already does on a regular basis.

The Bourdain Disagreement

anthony-bourdain-no-reservationsThere’s a minor disagreement in the Fox house. I think Anthony Bourdain’s show on CNN, “No Reservations,” “Parts Unknown,” is close to amazing. That is not a unanimous opinion.

Masterfully written. Nicely shot. He goes places I dream of, but know I’ll never see.

Tonight’s show is paused. He’s in Congo.

Helaine’s opinion of Bourdain is exactly opposite mine.

The show has Anthony traveling the world, marveling at local (often rudimentary) cuisine. It is the ultimate armchair travelogue. He flies in rickety third world airplanes, travels rivers in rickety boats, drives over rutted and potholed roads while eating food prepared with minimal consideration of hygiene.

There’s no doubt this is Anthony’s show. He will often address the camera directly. Lots of ‘me roll.’

Back to the writing. It’s the most important element in televised storytelling.

Guys like Bourdain and Alton Brown understand how to write prose which will be spoken. Bourdain’s script is crafted in his spoken voice. The narration is embedded deep within the fabric of the story–no less a player than the photography itself.

I’d like to think I write like that. Maybe not. I try.

The word is CNN will air more documentary type shows, like Bourdain’s, in 2014. From Deadline.com:

“The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts,” Zucker said in a recent interview about “massive changes” he’s got planned for the network, adding that he wants CNN to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

That’s good new and bad news. Among the bad, every hour of doc programming is an hour less of news. CNN is already news challenged too many hours of the day.

The good news is shows like Bourdain’s are worthwhile endeavors. We know so little of the world around us.