Dangling in the wind and acting

By John Toth
Bulletin Publisher

It’s all Dan Rather’s fault. Now, television reporters want to go into the middle of hurricanes and tell us how hard the wind is blowing and that it’s raining.

In 1961, Rather was the first one to report live as Hurricane Carla hit Texas. Ever since, reporters have sought their 15 minutes of fame by doing the same, except, they have made a few changes.

Some are now acting. Carla was a devastating storm. All Rather had to do was stay put and make sure all his gear worked. Back in those days, it was a lot harder to set up those live shots than now.

His reporting paid off. It gave him the greatest prize any reporter could get during a career – national attention. And, Rather went on to bigger and better things, finishing his career at CBS with anchoring the Evening News.

Unfortunately, his finish on the national stage was not as glamorous as his start, but that’s another story.

Hurricane Irene, as it turns out, did a lot of damage because of flooding in the Northeastern states, but the storm’s initial impact was more of a thump. That didn’t keep reporters from making it a major event.

They were saying one thing, but the camera was showing something else.

CNN’s Rob Marciano has become sort of a You Tube favorite with his, shall we say, slightly exaggerated reporting on Long Island as the storm passed through. By then, Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Still dangerous, but please, no acting.

“There you see the surf. That tells the whole story,” he shouted into the microphone as he was seen fighting the wind.

The camera told a different story. I’m wondering why one of his producers didn’t save him. As he was struggling in the wind, dozens of people were walking around behind him like it was no big deal.

It wasn’t just one suicidal nut, but dozens of normal looking people, walking normally, not struggling against the wind at all. He finally sought shelter and said he was tethered to something, so he could not talk to people.

There were a lot of them who could have walked over to see him if he just asked.

What has to be even a bigger You Tube sensation is Weather Channel’s Eric Fisher as he reported in Virginia Beach, Va.

As he talked about the dangers of the storm, several cars passed by, including a pickup truck in which the passenger was taking snapshots of him and his crew. People walked in front of and behind the camera.

“We are in a lull,” he explained. Sure, more like an LOL.

Then, a group of young men started to dance in the background. Unfortunately, one went too far and exposed himself on the air.

OK. He should not have done it. He probably just came from a hurricane party. But Fisher should not have been lying about how severe conditions were, either.

It’s almost like news people take pleasure in scaring us to death when it comes to storms. They have plenty of time to prepare, to get that adrenaline flowing. Local officials don’t help either when they get hyped up and start acting before they think things over.

New York Mayor Bloomberg reminded me of Houston Mayor Bill White in 2005 when Hurricane Rita was supposed to blow the Houston area off the map. White ordered an evacuation of Houston and created a huge parking lot with hundreds of thousands of people in their cars stranded on the freeways for 2-3 days. Many more people died in the evacuation than were killed by the hurricane.

Bloomberg, as White, was in the limelight non-stop as the storm approached the East Coast, hyping the situation with his words and behavior. People should be warned, but there is a line between hyping and informing. Politicians often miss that line.

Reporters aren’t any better as they try to use the hurricane to climb to fame. But guys, keep it in perspective. The general public, including myself, is already pretty scared of big storms.

This is not like politics where you can say anything. The pictures have to support the script.

We all know storms have wind and rain. There is no need for us to see some reporter dangling in the wind.

Ultimately, the viewer is to blame as well. We love watching these dopey reporters get blown around. Next time, before they start tumbling in the wind, I offer a little advice – look around to see what everyone else is doing.