Sunday, January 22, 2012

HOW'S THE WEATHER?


    Blauvelt, N.Y. -- My part of the universe, in the Northeast not far from New York City, was hit over the weekend with a small snow, about 6 inches. From the pre-storm hype, though, you would think the Blizzard of ’88 was about to fall from the skies. Even a national drug store chain e-mailed to “stock up on storm supplies TODAY.”
The weather is changing, surely. Super heat in Texas, floods in the Midwest, tornadoes in New Jersey (not Gov. Christie), ice in Seattle, extraordinary drought and too much rain in areas unaccustomed to both. What gives? Environmental pollution? Cyclical weather patterns catching up? Or, at least with flooding, nature not finding the old flood plains to fill when it rains since Huggy Bear Estates or other “progress” construction now occupy the sites?
What does give is that no matter why the nation -- the world -- has been experiencing weird weather, media hype over many storms is overdone. I am not talking about disastrous weather, where reporters take great chances to accurately give the who, what, when, where, why and how. No, storms like the six-inch snow we faced in this part of the Northeast.  Except for several hours when the very cold road surface turned powdery snow into dangerous ice, the snow came and went and was hardly a storm in the sense of 15-inch, blowing white stuff we have tackled over the years. 
Yet every newscast from mid-week on warned of possible dire situations: roads blocked, power out, emergency rooms jammed, first responders overwhelmed. Comparisons were made to a major storm about a year ago in which New York City found itself behind the eight ball when it didn’t clear streets quickly enough and cars were abandoned by drivers who perhaps should not have been out in the first place. Apples and oranges, this comparison.
The media were underwhelming, and I can say that. I was privileged to toil for a newspaper for 42 years at a serious sheet where good and underpaid reporters, photographers, deskmen, editors, printers, pressmen, delivery people and advertising staff took the job to heart and sought out “real” news. Not just fluff, for there has always been that. Not just the dog saves man story, always that too. Not just the tabloid “Headless torso found in topless bar” copy. But the day-to-day, seemingly ordinary  government news that, after hard digging, reveals corruption, malfeasance or incompetence. We and others didn’t always do the job the best we could, but we tried. And with enough of us trying, the news got out.
Newspapers today have lost their ad and circulation bases, and so their staff. More fluff fills the pages instead of news. On TV, its “news” shows are more about entertainment, and the stories seem to come out of reality shows. They relate little to the average Joe and Sue trying to make ends meet, keep a job, pay taxes, have a decent quality of living.
Remember when some of us picked up a date and you didn’t have anything to say to the mother? You talked about the weather. Today, the media, my old shop, is a-courtin’ readers, viewers, listeners, Tweeters, Facebookers, but this time talk about the skies won’t get them anywhere.

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