I listened to the Paul Finebaum radio sports talk show this afternoon. He dedicated the whole program to a discussion on severe weather coverage. Many callers were against it and a few were for it. Brad Huffines, Chief meteorologist at WAAY also called in to the show. You can listen to his call here. Finebaum also linked to Alabamawx.com blog posts by Dr. Tim Coleman and Bill Murray about the tornado warning during the 1983 Iron Bowl college football game between Alabama and Auburn. Dr. Coleman's post has screen shots of the local broadcast of the game on Birmingham, Alabama's ABC affiliate. The screen shot shows that severe weather coverage at the time was limited to a crawl at the bottom of the screen and the words "Tornado Warning" in the upper right corner of the screen.
It was very frustrating listening to this show. So many of the callers were very selfish in their opinions and ignorant in their knowledge of weather. Paul Finebaum was also very inaccurate in many respects, including the fact that he did not know the meaning of a tornado warning. Dan Satterfield of WHNT and James Spann of ABC 33/40 were slammed by callers. Finebaum really disappointed me because whenever he mentioned James Spann by name he was complimentary of his "impeccable character" and that he had "earned" his reputation as the "best known weatherman in Alabama". Then he slammed him (not by name) for mentioning that his coworkers at the station needed to take cover. He said that was "the height of hypocrisy". He called him a hypocrite and a person of impeccable character at the same time. What is up with that? Is that hypocrisy?
James Spann has been dealing with this kind of criticism for a long time. In July of 2008 he wrote this comment:
"We do get huge ratings during tornado warning coverage. I won’t apologize for that; the simple fact is that people here demand and expect long form coverage during tornado warnings. To give you an example, at 2:00 a.m. (middle of the night) on Sunday May 11, ABC 33/40 had a 16 rating and 36 share, which was more than WBRC, WVTM, WIAT, WABM, and all other local stations combined. This was during long form tornado coverage, of course. To get those kind of numbers at that time of the day on a weekend is nothing more than incredible.
Our station started the aggressive long form coverage here in 1996, when we signed on the air, and most other stations came late to the party after the April 8, 1998 tornado. We are glad they joined us; more people will get the warning that way. With most households receiving over 500 channels now, if folks don’t want to watch weather coverage, they have plenty of options. So, call it storm porn or whatever you want, the show will go on. Both on TV, and on the Internet through this blog, our live stream, and social networking sites. People here expect it, and will continue to get it from our team at ABC 33/40. "
James also mentioned the high false alarm ration in tornado warnings. That is something that the NWS really needs to work on and I have heard that is one of the goals of the $10 million Project Vortex 2 that is now underway.
In the mean time, I ask the following question:
Should television stations always have long form severe weather coverage when there is a county in the DMA under a tornado warning or should they have a modified policy depending on the perceived nature of the threat?
I have a final parting comment. I hate the personal attacks against Dan Satterfield and James Spann. I do not know Dan personally but he has been very helpful and kind to me when I have asked him questions via email. This criticism of the motives of James Spann is bogus. None of us know what goes on in the hearts and minds of others but I know James and will publicly and privately tell anyone who will listen that he is sincere as they come and that his goal is to provide the public with the information they need to keep themselves safe. I think a lot of folks agree with me about James' commitment. I am glad he has thick skin.
Warm Tomorrow; Showers Wednesday - SUNNY, WARM AFTERNOON: Temperatures are in the 80 to 85 degree range across Alabama this afternoon with a cloudless sky. The average high for April 12 at B...
1 hour ago