All original images (C) Steve Douglass unless otherwise noted.

All original images (C) Steve Douglass unless otherwise noted. Permission required for commercial use or publishing.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Opinion: Forecasting or Fearcasting?

You've heard of weather forecasting - but what is fearcasting?

Fearcasting is what you do when your TV station is still at the bottom of the ratings even though you've hired a new topnotch meteorologist and had a sponsor buy you some new-gee-whiz 3D doppler gizmo and you have to make it pay off.

Fearcasting is spending way too much live air-time covering severe weather - whether it is severe or not.

Fearcasting includes the following phraseology:

"This is a potentially dangerous situation!"

"You should consider taking your tornado precautions!"

"This storm could become a right-turner and move into the city!"

Note the frequent use of the words: "Potentially" "Should consider" and "could."

These key words give the TV meteorologist an out. He never said there was a tornado, but there could be - so as a result keep watching our station!

Unfortunately this fearcasting technique is now becoming the norm at a certain station in Amarillo.

The idea is to keep you fearful so you'll stay tuned in. They are on the air constantly - and live - broadcasting from the heart of the storm - so they must know better - even though the other stations are only running a crawl.

I can't tell you how many times I've been storm chasing sitting under the same clouds the fearcasters are) and I'm wondering to myself ( as I hear their reports coming over my portable TV) where are they getting this stuff?

Fearcasters - you know who you are!

You also should know it doesn't garner ratings, the latest statistics are proof of that.

So here it is:

Cry wolf too many times and the viewer will just turn the channel.

Continue to underestimate the intelligence of your viewers, and they will turn the channel.

Don't force a respected veteran forecaster to become a fearcaster. It didn't work with Tony Derda. It didn't work with Amy Gardner and its akin to tabloid journalism.

We (the viewing public) know that you really can't "keep us safe."

That's up to us. Just keep us informed but do so honestly.

Don't embellish.

Don't hype and most of all -

Don't Fearcast!

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