CBC weather panic — feedback

After hectoring us for five days about Bill, a hurricane that was actually a tropical storm, the media took an only slightly more restrained approach to Danny, a weak tropical storm that actually appears to be a half-day rain shower. CBC still wrung its hands for much of the week, but didn’t cancel regular programs. Many contrarian readers responded to the hype, starting after the jump with CW.

All I can figure is there must be money in it somewhere. I don’t remember in the didactic fairy tale that the obnoxious little kid got rich, but why else keep doing this over an over again. One of the truly irritating  aspects of the whole  Bill  circus was listening the day after to the meteorologists patting themselves on the back for the accuracy of their predictions.  If that was indeed the case, why then were they all over at CBC giving aid and support to the Chicken Littles?

Retired King’s journalism prof Bruce Wark thinks CW’s on the right track:

CBC’s hysterics over weather is part of its policy to build TV ratings and attract more advertisers. For the past couple of years, Mother Corp has been listening to American consultants at Frank Magid Associates.

The consultants have been telling CBC bean counters they can raise more ad revenues for the cash-starved public broadcaster if they play up stories of interest to everyone. Weather falls securely into that category. Apparently, CBC TV in Edmonton calls the new formula, “We’ve got your back,” meaning that CBC is trying to make itself into the “Go To” place for information you need to keep you and your family healthy, happy and safe.  Thus, CBC will continue to play up news about crime, accidents, and weather, plus human interest stories such as the one on last night’s supper hour “newsmaker interview” about the Nova Scotia man whose pet pirhana ate part of his finger. It’s a ratings-building formula perfected by private TV stations in the States where, as the saying goes, if it bleeds, it leads.

Unfortunately, the new formula means CBC is stepping away from the traditional role of a public broadcaster to monitor the centres of institutional power. Political and economic stories are getting much shorter shrift on CBC TV than they used to. For example, on the day that the new NDP government released an accountants’ report on the grim state of the province’s finances, it took the supper hour show a full eight minutes to get to it. To be fair, Paul Withers was given the time for a fairly comprehensive report, and Tom Murphy interviewed finance minister Graham Steele in the newsmaker segment, but the news lineup that night reflected the CBC’s new approach which includes “live” reports to give the illusion of immediacy — “here’s what’s happening right now” — and constant reminders that “you’re seeing it first on CBC News.”

The new 90-minute supper hour program has been built around the new formula. More weather, more crime, and even reports on traffic tie-ups around the Halifax Regional Municipality, so that viewers will know why their commuting loved ones are late for supper. Best of all? CBC will get the news out of your face by 6:30, so you can enjoy the money-making foreign shows Coronation Street, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy as lead-ins to prime time.

Scott Gillard is equally annoyed:

This one really gets to me as well.  I was watching Global News last night and they were doing the same thing.  There’s a 20% chance it will become a hurricane and a 5 – 10% chance it will hit the Maritimes.  While the odds are tipped in our favour why not take a moment to report one of the many good news stories occurring on a daily basis?  Believe it or not, they’re easier to find and far more readily available than the doom and gloom long range weather predictions – that as we can see from last weekend are overall meaningless.Only one reader took the opposing view.

Beyond our contrarian realm, Cape Breton Post editor Fred Jackson defends the souped up storm coverage after a feisty, contrarian letter from Wendy Wishart produced a flood of reader comments, pro and con. While live-blogging the purported maelstrom on its website, the Post lost power and fell silent just as Bill was proving to be a dud. Wrote Wishart:

You know what’s going to happen? Some day, something really, really bad is going to be on its way. And we will be totally unprepared because in your desire to make news where none exists you will have cried wolf once too often and we’ll assume it’s just more ratings-gathering scare-mongering.

Jackson explained the power failure, and added:

I’d rather err on the side of the angels than the alternative.

Jackson’s missing the point. The media began hyping Bill and Danny five days before they got here. By the time they arrived, predictably much diminished, broadcasters and newspapers were so invested in the story, they had little option but to treat it as a big deal. Erring on the side supposedly occupied by angels, also known as crying wolf, is potentially just as dangerous of failing to warn about a real threat. It’s the not media’s job to err on any side.

Finally. a contrary-contrarian view from  J. Nunn, of Bayfield, Antigonish County, who has broadcast a few hurricane warnings in his day:

God, you are such a crank.