Spare Us the Hype


It was a very unsettling time for the denizens of the Northeast last week when every news-gathering organization hyped the "worst Nor'easter in 50 years," a slow-forming storm that could cripple the entire area, dumping two feet of the white stuff in its wake.

The snowstorm never really snowballed, so to speak, though the hype sure did cripple the area, causing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and leading officials on all fronts to shut down government offices, schools and businesses everywhere.

I'd love to see the TV reports of the aftermath, detailing the financial losses from all who heeded those impressive looking Doppler radar scans of this meteorological phenomenon, which never quite found its stride.

But that will never happen. Instead, after the big nothing, we saw the usual bantering among the weather people and newscasters about how they all blew it.

Please. At least the local newspapers did a better job, offering up a smattering of personal hardship stories about how working parents had to stay home to mind the kids, thus losing income or burning up unnecessary sick or personal days to take care of their families during this supposed impending freak-of-nature storm. And there were hardships. Because local area bus companies shut down, people had no way of getting to their jobs and were docked.

But we'll never really know the full extent of the financial distress that a bunch of ratings hungry news organizations caused, because, quite frankly, as I write this piece, they are already chasing the next storm brewing in the Northeast.

True, for the more fortunate who had the flexibility of telecommuting, armed with fax machines, computers and Palm Pilots, this might have been a welcome respite from the day-to-day grind of fighting one's way into the office. Ironically, many of those people probably run the very newsgathering organizations that spewed all the hype to begin with.

Personally, I've had it and am turning a deaf ear to all future weather reports. From this point on, I am simply going to look out the window-and we might all be better off if the weathercasters did too-and check out the lay of the land, and not be duped by all the hype.

Having said that, it's true the zeal on the part of news networks to forewarn us about that meteorological Armageddon was not nearly as serious, or even on par with the erroneous calls based on Florida exit polls that they all made during the presidential race.

After all, as a nation we were not in major peril because of a bum weather forecast, compared to last November when we were left sitting around, waiting to hear who our next leader would be.

Still, the whole storm incident last week-dubbed "The Lion of March" by the Weather Channel-made many people, who had radically altered their habits to prepare for it, feel flat-out duped.

Frankly, the only people to benefit from the hype were all of the media outlets, which saw their ratings soar as residents stayed glued to their sets, heeding the advice to batten down those hatches and stock up on every imaginable item necessary for the end of civilization.

As I sit here putting the finishing touches on this tome, yet another storm is brewing. And you know what, I don't care. The one channel I will turn to, if I even want to hear another word about weather, will be Cablevision's News Channel 12. Last Tuesday, and early on in the day, during what was supposed to be the mother of all storms, that local cable channel had the guts to predict that "this storm is fizzling out."

Maybe the big guys should sit up and take note of that welcome candor in reporting.

But heck, that type of forecast doesn't sell snow blowers, does it?