Thursday, January 7, 2010


Among the many things I hate about news broadcasts are their clumsy attempts to switch from one topic to the next. This is especially painful when they try to toss it to the weatherman.

Anchor: "But for now, the Manhattan Rapist remains at large. And speaking of rape, I understand a cold front will be forcing itself upon us this weekend, right Chet?"

Weatherman Chet: "That's right, John! This weekend Jack Frost will be climbing through our windows at night and grabbing us when we least expect it."

When did weathermen become the center fielders of the newscast? Why does the entire show revolve around Ricky Raindrop? Weathermen all get their data from the same sources anyway. It's not like Channel 5 is going to predict partly cloudy while Channel 2 is forecasting The Rapture. All you should care about is which newscast has the hottest weather girl.

And how come no one riots when weather teams use dramatic, theatrical tones to report non-events? What does a 35% chance of rain actually mean? It means a 65% chance of no rain. Do we really need Avatar-caliber graphics for something with less than a 50% probability of occurring?

Worst of all, viewers are held hostage by these dubious data. Imagine you were off to a Yankee game, and before heading out, you heard a sports reporter say:

Reporter: “Tonight there’s a 35% chance Derek Jeter hits a homer.

You wouldn’t go, “Damn, better bring my glove!”

Of course, you can’t justify a spooky sounding S-T-O-R-M D-E-S-K if you telegraph that what you’re covering is a lack of something.

Why not just devote the whole newscast to wacky figures? Example: In 2008, there were 516 recorded homicides in NYC. Instead of a real crime beat, why not just set up a homicide “prediction” desk? Hire a hot chick, call her the Action 5 Homicide Honey, put her behind the SENSELESS VIOLENCE DESK and teach her to say, “Today we’re looking at 1.4 murders around town. The record high: 8 murders back in 1990. The record low, set all the way back in 1891, 0 murders.”

Anchor: “Hmm, not much murder back in 1891. Simpler times. Okay, speaking of bloodshed, we’ve got Rachel reporting from the Gaza Strip.”

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