Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Can We Trust The News Anymore?

On Monday at 11 pm, as newscasters around the region were beginning to downplay the forecasted snowstorm, NBC10 still began their show with this graphic.

It was still a major snowstorm. Just not here.

Their weather predictions were much more calm during the show than they had been during the previous 48 hours. NBC10, along with other local news stations - as well as online outlets and some newspapers, had trumpeted the pending doom that would arrive here with the MEGA SNOWSTORM for nearly two days before they finally acknowledged it would be a bust.

And that left some people complaining about weather coverage in the news.

One guy tweeted: "I know ratings are more important than accuracy..... But you guys really cost a lot of people money & time."

Many other people were not so nice.

News people began responding very quickly via twitter:

Some took to Facebook to express their feelings:

"The bottom line: you just can't win," wrote 6ABC anchor Matt O'Donnell. "I know. It's part of the business. You expect us to be right, and that's what we aim to do. We were not. But I think given we were on the lower end of predicted snow totals, claims that we aimed to hype this storm just don't make sense."

He then apologized and wrote, "This is a real bummer for a news guy who wants nothing more than to be accurate, objective, and to make complete sense."

Do the people have a right to be angry? Did the news outlets hype the storm?

Or is the community expecting too much from weather people? The weather people are just putting forth the best information they have, aren't they?

Either way, will you ever believe the weather people again? 

Do situations like this ultimately make all journalists look bad?


Isabel Garcia (TU '14/CBS3) said...

Firstly, sorry for the novel!

I personally was working on the assignment desk at CBS3 Monday night when all of the hype was going on. Yes, local stations compete for ratings and that was part of the mindset going into the newscasts, however, this whole thing does not boil down to just one topical decision, i.e., ratings.

The NWS had predicted snow totals even higher than what the news stations were putting out, and this is the service government officials use to determine what actions to take to best prepare the city and state, with the priority being public safety. When we had the storm last week, it wasn't predicated to be as bad as it turned out and multiple people died.

Today we did a follow up about how and why the NWS got the snow totals wrong and there were three big things I took away from the story:
1. weather is a science, you can only predict the future so much
2. this was not a typical storm system and due to the complexity of how it was forming, it was harder to predict [the future]
3. overnight, there was one change in the storm that caused the system to miss the Philly region: it formed further off the coast than it was originally projected to

The fact that there is so much hype about all of the hype tells me that people generally do trust the news, or at the very least, hold journalists accountable. This is a good thing and should continue to be the expectation of the public.

Look, it's always easier to point out when someone is doing something wrong, yes? The average day-to-day news does not get as much attention as weather coverage (particularly speaking about this "storm") but those stories hold just as much importance - they may not be as urgent, but they're still important. So shouldn't the question then be, how can news outlets create more hype (or added importance) to every newscast and each story, not just weather events? Is it through social media? Is it using social media as a platform to get viewers back to watching the newscasts (less likely)?

Overall, I think this was a relevant event - learning lesson, perhaps - in the shifting paradigm of how 'journalism' will be defined for the upcoming generation of news consumers.

Tracy Yatsko said...

Very well said Isabel. "weather is a science" we can only predict so much...

I'm not sure why people have such high expectations for meteorologists. It is nothing new that mother nature does what she wants.

Just a pet peeve of mine, people bitch when we get snow and people bitch when we don't get snow.

Andrew J Masterson said...

It would be something of concern if I actually trusted weather personalities in the first place. I am not questioning their credentials because most of them are more than qualified, but I take what they have reported with a grain of salt. They have good days and bad days just like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, for weather reporters, if they're not right 100% of the time, most people will be upset. No doubt. However, the weather people were not wrong, it did snow. But just not in the right area. Yes it is upsetting and slightly annoying when people spend tons of time and money preparing for the worst, but we still will watch the evening news to see the weather for the coming week. Honestly, I don't think a wrong prediction changes anyones perspective on the news, people just look for something to make negative comments on. These situations do not make journalists look bad whatsoever, journalists make mistakes just like everyone else. I personally will still trust what these professionals say.

-Heather Fass

Anonymous said...

Adriana Vela

I think that the weather people have a difficult job by predicting the weather especially with global warming happening. For the most part they are pretty close. I think by them producing something else its not that big of deal It did snow, just somewhere else. Also no job is done perfectly but I am sure they do there best to deliver as close to accuracy as they can. Give them a break no one is perfect