Please End This Insanity

[ Posted Thursday, September 29th, 2022 – 14:42 UTC ]

This column isn't about politics. It's about safety, and television, and common sense. Because if things don't change, someone is going to get badly hurt and/or die. While we're all watching. Which is why today I'm writing something I have long thought: no sane person should ever "report live" from a hurricane.

What is the benefit to having a human being standing in a street fighting hurricane-force winds? There is none. A shot of the street itself is more than enough to show what is happening.

During Hurricane Ian, a weather reporter came perilously close to proving this point in the worst way. Watch the video clip if you haven't already seen it. Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel gets hit by a rather large tree branch that is being whipped along by the wind, then struggles to stand up while clinging to a street sign's pole. Another sign behind him has already been blown down by the wind.

Think about that for a second. Wind strong enough to knock down a metal pole with a sign on it. The sign Cantore clings to also looks like it could topple over at any moment. Any sane person would get out of that wind as soon as possible. Actually, no sane person would have voluntarily walked out into that wind in the first place.

Look, I understand dramatic television. Viewers love it. And hurricanes are scary. But that doesn't mean risking someone's life to get such shots. Seeing the branches and other storm debris flying by with astonishing speed is more than enough.

I've long thought that the only thing that's going to stop this idiocy is some hapless reporter getting seriously injured or even killed on camera. A real-life snuff film, in other words, with Mother Nature as the murderess.

Does anyone really want that to happen?

This isn't just one boneheaded guy, either. It's almost a mini-genre of disaster reporting -- "Here I am standing in the full force of the storm..." shots are sadly pretty commonplace. But sooner or later one of those tree branches (or maybe a flying Stop sign) is going to connect in a much more dangerous way. It's almost inevitable, really.

There's only one thing that can stop this from happening, and that would be the news networks (all of them) voluntarily agreeing to forgo any such shots forever. If a reporter knows that risking their life for the sake of dramatic television will not make it on the air then they will stop doing them.

Sadly, I fear that this will not happen until after an entirely-preventable tragedy happens. Instead of just seeing videos of idiots who don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain (and hurricane-force winds), we're going to see one of them walloped by debris on screen. And get hurt badly. Or perhaps become storm debris themselves, by getting physically carried away by the wind. Which will, no doubt, drive viewership through the roof.

The television executives need to put a stop to such recklessness. Currently, they are showing a depraved indifference to their own employee's lives. They are encouraging and rewarding very dangerous behavior. Maybe that's what it will take -- a lawsuit by the survivors of an entirely-preventable disaster suing the network.

It really doesn't have to get to that point, though.

Someone, please -- stop this madness before it is too late.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


5 Comments on “Please End This Insanity”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    If the networks stop doing it, some screwball independents will do it anyway.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    How should these storms be covered? Many reporters who cover these storms put themselves into situations that make them look rather ridiculous. Those sorts of shots aren't necessary.

    However, I think reporters who act sensibly and report from protected areas that still allow them to show the intensity and dangers of a hurricane do perform an essential service.

  3. [3] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Unfortunately, there are probably 1-3 other people on site (someone has the camera, after all).

    What's sad is that while Storm-Snuffing-a-Reporter might (might) cause change, it'd take two or three incidents involving off-camera folk before change happened.

  4. [4] 
    John M wrote:

    "What's sad is that while Storm-Snuffing-a-Reporter might (might) cause change, it'd take two or three incidents involving off-camera folk before change happened."

    Not necessarily. Tornado chasing shows ended on television after that one incident were the chasers were killed chasing a storm.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    We still have storm chaser shows up here - on the Weather Network, naturally.

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