It’s absurd to watch the weather live on TV while it’s happening right in front of our eyes. Most of what we see is obvious: Snow falls, wind picks-up, and plows roll by. We continue to watch. The newscaster reminds us, towards the end of the segment that was filmed on Long Island that it is still very early, that it will be a long day and that there is still much to come. We need to keep watching.
Weathercasting is availableAs extreme weather events become more frequent, it becomes more difficult to stay safe. Journalists put themselves in harm’s way to document storms and fires and tornadoes. Sometimes they are confronted with rising water or strong winds, and they have to stand up. This has led to debate about whether ritually addressing a camera during a hurricane is a good idea. It is a television tradition, stormcasting. It is not impossible to imagine it ending. Fox and other major networks are investing more in weather reporting and hiring meteorologists and data analysts. They believe that as more disasters occur, viewers will want to be able to see them live on television.
But then there is reporting from the scene of regular old noncatastrophic weather — the kind the newscaster on Long Island was describing, the kind that is interesting only locally, and attended to by unglamorous local media. This weather is not visually striking by itself. Snowfall, even destructive snowfall consists mostly of sprinkling. The arc of a snowstorm is almost always the same. The storm will descend, then lift off. It can cause power outages, fallen branches, or impassable roads. People venture out for snowball fights, or sledding. Streets and sidewalks are plowed and salted. The snow melts eventually, leaving everything mudder than before. We wait for the next storm.
News coverage is more like a long, dramatic version of small talk.
The newscaster transforms all this into a collective event that is rich in drama and meaning. Although there is utility in the coverage, issues such as road conditions are often addressed quickly. These broadcasts become a sort of improvised human interest story about people dealing snow. Pedestrians are stopped on the street and asked about their experience; often they have little to say beyond confirming that yes, it’s really coming down. Newscasters take out rulers and describe wind speeds. They also give statistics on precipitation history. They might ad-lib, as Channel 4’s Brian Thompson did earlier this year, about what it might be like to be a dog seen romping through the snow — or comment on how, as mentioned in a previous segment, 7-Eleven was closed, leaving no place to get coffee. News coverage is more like a long, dramatic version of small talk.
Source: NY Times