Thursday, September 22, 2005

Storm Track Hysteria

Fire of Liberty

William Rusher has a wonderful column on the nutty "storm watch" coverage that seems to be popping up constantly on the cable networks. No matter what cable news channel you turn to, you're more likely than not to find some talking head who have never been in a meteorology class one day of their life but somehow think they are such experts that they can yucking it up on the screen about the gale force winds, the category of the storm and the fact that this behemoth of a storm is threatening to destroy all of humanity along the coastline. Does anyone remember all of the talk about Katrina blowing down all of the buildings in New Orleans or the speculation that some 10,000 people were killed by the storm and subsequent flooding? What makes things more worse is the fact that the media types seem to be almost giddy that the current or next storm will be the big one and are ready with their reporters with camera in hand braving the elements to give you a live view from the scene. I think Rusher summed up the news media's obsessive nature of reporting on the approaching "killer storm" and how it deprives the people, who are in the path of the storm, useful information with the following paragraphs:
But how can we reasonably expect ordinary human beings to react to such repeated inundations of alarming news? They can't (or won't) board up their shop windows and fortify their houses four or five times every year, let alone abandon their homes and flee inland, when they know that the chance of a hurricane landing right on top of them is more like once every 20 years. Such continual fever-pitch reporting results in a "cry wolf" desensitization that may leave some ill-prepared when an actual crisis arises.

There is a real problem here. We want people to know when a hurricane is indeed likely to come ashore in their area, and to take whatever anticipatory action is necessary, up to and including evacuation, when the authorities order it. And the media have an important role to play in spreading the news. But it would be a welcome relief if they would just tone down their preliminary rhetoric. ("The storm is still about four days off the coast, and there's a 60 percent chance that it will turn before reaching it, so continue to enjoy your summer and we'll keep you informed.") Then, when the danger really requires action, there will be a better chance of inducing it.
Unfortunately, the media is only concerned about boosting their daytime numbers and could care less about how the consistent yammering is a pacifier to the folks who should be spending their time doing other things like "gettin' the hell out of Dodge." So if you do anything tomorrow, please ignore the "storm watch" and check out ESPN, The History Channel, NFL Network, C-SPAN or even SCI-FI. Better yet, go to one of the many websites here and here on Lost and figure out those numbers, Hatch Boy or the latest theory about what awaits the marooned islanders.

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