Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Special: Tornado Crisis And Television
We are going to step away from NASCAR for one day and return on Thursday evening with a new column. Many Americans lost their lives on Wednesday night in an amazing tornado outbreak that stretched from Texas through Virginia.
As perhaps many of you did, I turned to the cable news networks for updates. I found O'Reilly on FOX, a show about greed on CNBC, Nancy Grace on Headline News, former Gov. Spitzer on CNN and some guy who wanted the last word on MSNBC. What I did not find was coverage of this national disaster.
It was only the hardworking men and women at The Weather Channel (TWC) who were holding up their end of the bargain and offering non-stop coverage of the storms. Radar, videos and pics were great tools to help people across the Southeast stay informed.
TWC had reporters in the field doing liveshots, several roaming with the storms. The network has a severe storm expert following the live radar and offering a tremendous amount of information to viewers. Finally, TWC was completely on top of the social media side with information, pictures and videos from Twitter and Facebook.
The outrage that FOX, CNN and the NBC cable news nets appeared not to care about the weather situation is well-deserved. Between President Obama's birth certificate, the royal wedding and Donald Trump's self-promotion there was plenty of juicy content for the various primetime programs.
These types of shows are called long-form branded content. Long because they are one hour in length and branded because they have a specific person, like O'Reilly or Nancy Grace, associated with them. It wasn't always this way, but it is what the current cable TV news networks have become.
TWC's severe weather expert Dr. Greg Forbes was no doubt a lifesaver to many Wednesday night. The tireless meteorologist was constantly updating a myriad of radar images on the fly and continually moving people out of the way of the storm.
His intensity made it even more ironic when a spin of the dial caught the cable news talking heads ranting on subjects that made little impact but let them make noise in the ratings.
Perhaps you can share with us your actions on seeking news about these Wednesday evening storms. What network or website did you wind-up turning to for the information you wanted? How did it work and what made sense to you the most?
I think it's time for the cable news networks, especially CNN and HLN to look in the mirror and return to program line-ups based on information from the real world. It used to be that the cable news nets filled an agenda of updating the stories of the day in primetime. Now, it's all about scripted drama, overstatements and agendas.
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