Hurricanes are just not cool. Not at all.
Recently, we have had Irma tear through the Caribbean and Florida and points north. My son, who lives north of Miami, was thankfully out of state when it hit. But there was damage near his place when he got home a few days later.
Then there was Jose, another powerful storm. And as I write this Hurricane Marie is gathering steam. As scientists have warned us, the changing climate will mean more strong storms like this. Which is not good for anyone, really.
My big takeaway from Irma was that TV weather people are a special kind of stupid. Seeing a guy from The Weather Channel stand in the middle of a raging storm wearing a helmet and flak jacket didn't make me think, “Wow, what a brave man out there covering the deadly hurricane for me, the viewer.” Instead, I thought, “What a complete moron.”
Seriously, did you watch any of the coverage? From the Weather Channel to CNN to the major networks, there were TV weather people standing as close to water as they could, or in a place that showed how violent the winds were and how not smart they were.
In one case, debris fell right behind someone reporting on the storm. Will it take a tree or a building smashing one of these people on live TV before they get smart?
I really don't need to see someone standing out in a storm to know how violent it is at the moment. If you tell me there are 150 mph winds and show video of the damage it has caused, I get the picture. Show me footage of the winds and sheets of rain and rising tides taken from a safe location and that is fine with me.
Why do we need to have a weather person battling the elements to show the force of a storm? This is not about meteorology. No. This is about personality. This is about ratings. This is about “good TV.” and “good TV” doesn't necessarily mean “safe TV.”
Technology has made weather forecasting much more accurate (although as I stated in an early column, not accurate enough for me). And these beautiful, big high-definition TV's has made watching weather stories seem very real for viewers.
But it is the flood of 24-hour news channels and the buzz of the constant drive to outdo the competition that has led to people standing out in a storm risking their well-being to give viewers information they could deliver in a safer location.
I am not kidding when I say it is sadly probably going to take the serious injury or death of one of these reporters before networks get smart about their coverage of these big storms.
Let's hope that is not the case. Let's hope that these larger, more violent storms will wake up TV producers to the danger and convince them that the safety of those who work for them to deliver the news is more important than to show of some dude in rain gear getting batted around by high winds.
We don't need to see someone taken out on live TV, but it will probably happen eventually. In my years in the news business, I have only seen TV news get more personality and ratings obsessed, not less. That is a potentially fatal problem.