Damn! Nobody Dead, Nobody Injured

The weather is on the mind of the blogosphere this morning. Or rather, the lack of weather.

Near Orlando, Tom Carbone writes, “Well, I [rode] out Hurricane Dennis and survived. It didn’t rain at all today, and the wind was calm all day. Whew!” We watched from New York, but we had the same take on the television coverage. Simply, “the media overblows hurricanes for ratings.” Carbone has two bones to pick. “Number one, on CNN, they were talking to the head of the hurricane center. The weather chick on CNN asked him if he noticed that the 2 p.m. update showed the storm actually weakening, and he goes ‘We don’t want to talk about the storm weakening, that would be dangerous.’ Did he mean dangerous to the CNN ratings? Number two, I saw the two guys in Pensacola live — it got rough for like 2 minutes, then calm, then rough for like 2 minutes, and then it was over. Then CNN played the one scene over and over again all afternoon. I guess you could expect that, but then later that night on Larry King, the reporter said that it was howling non-stop at hurricane speed winds for 45 minutes. OK, that’s a lie — I saw it live.”

Fed up with the coverage, Carbone considered pulling a fast one. “I was thinking of mailing in my pictures from the last hurricane to CNN, and claim[ing] I was in Fort Walton, Destin, or some other area up there. … Part of me was like, well, it would serve them right for sensationalizing this, but then the other part of me was afraid I’d get caught. Maybe I’ll do it next time.”

CJR Daily is glad he didn’t, but the imaginary episode does make us wonder how CNN goes about verifying “citizen journalism.”

Bubba spent “a wet nasty Sunday afternoon stuck in the house watching the epic news coverage of Hurricane Dennis.” It brought back memories of the ’70s, he writes: “I haven’t seen that much enthusiasm over an event since the old TV commercials of Fred Ward Wrestling from the Columbus Municipal Auditorium. Those two [CNN reporters] were trying so hard to make viewers think that they were in immediate danger of being impaled to death from flying debris or being blown into the air like pieces of paper.”

The coverage was not without its good moments. Bubba’s favorite was “one live shot that made me bust out laughing was from MSNBC as one of their female reporters ventured out close to the white-capped water crashing onto the shore. She was holding onto her ball cap and leaning into the wind as though it was taking all her effort just to stand. Giving her dramatic coverage of how dangerous it was to be this close to the water and how powerful the wind and waves were, her moment of glory was quickly deflated before she realized it. As her cameraman panned the area the camera came around behind her only to capture some local people in their tank tops and shorts casually walking just feet behind her, with hardly any notice of the wind and rain. There was even one man holding his small child on his shoulders as calm as if it were any day in the park.”

Evil Otto pleads for some restraint: “This sort of thing happens a couple of times a year; the areas get pounded, some damage is done, and the storm blows through and people pick up the pieces and go on with their lives. … I’m not saying that Dennis shouldn’t be covered. Obviously it’s news. Just for sanity’s sake, though, couldn’t we have some perspective here? Not every storm that slams into the United States is ‘Hell from the sea’” — referencing a Drudge Report headline from over the weekend.

We second that thought.

A little tired of all the ragging, we set out to find someone who had something good to say about the coverage. Um, not there.

So, one final shot — this time from Steve Scott, a Chicago-based radio reporter and the public address announcer for the Chicago Bulls.

Did they go just a little over the top? Perhaps a lot over the top?

CNN brought top anchors Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien to Atlanta to go wall-to-wall on the hurricane. Thank goodness Miles explained to us early on that CNN would likely “lose our satellite feeds several times in the upcoming hours.”

Hey, CNN even gave their coverage a name … calling themselves your Hurricane Headquarters.

Did Anderson Cooper really need to stand out in the rain and wind … especially when he started talking about how the storm was “not as bad as it could have been?”

Didn’t Rick Sanchez look a little silly reporting over a videophone? Hey, Rick … this isn’t Afghanistan. It’s Alabama. (insert punch line here)

The TV cable news outlets were building this thing up like it was going to be the end of the world … sort of the “Perfect Storm” of hurricanes. They were doing their best to scare the Hell out of people. In many ways, they succeeded.

And, what did we end up with? A pretty decent storm … and video of people drinking beer and playing pool volleyball in the floodwaters!

Folks, look at it this way. At least seven times as many people died in homicides in Chicago over the weekend as died in the hurricane.

Hey, CNN … get up here! We’ve got a story for you!

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.