New News

This just in: There’s a new form of news populating the national network evening newscasts. OK, it isn’t really “new”; recent is a more accurate if no more precise term.

Weather.

That’s right. There is weather.

Once the subject of enthusiastic, occasionally humorous, but always earnest local television personalities, weather has transitioned to a national news story.

Local weather as presented on TV was a broadcasting service. Because broadcasting is local – its signals travel only so far – and weather isn’t, the weather report pertained largely to those living in the viewing area — effective signal radius in tech talk.

Which is as it should be. We needed to know whether or not to bring an umbrella, or to wear our spring/fall jacket or our winter coat. During summer, we didn’t require this kind of jacket help.

But now, virtually every day’s national newscast includes at least one weather story. And, accompanying the weather, is a statistic about how many people will be affected by the weather.

“One hundred twenty million people are in the shadow of this storm,” the newscaster intones.

Jeepers. Must be serious, right? 120 million! Wow.

Once reserved for only the most severe of storms – powerful hurricanes and the like – weather is a newsbeat at the national desk.

Well, why not? It has all the elements of high drama. Like sports, where the outcome is uncertain until the very last moment, weather isn’t predictable. Despite our attempts to do precisely that.

Antagonists and protagonists are easily identifiable in weather stories. As are victims and their suffering, as measured in lives lost, buildings destroyed, and costs for repair and restoration.

It’s visual and makes for “good TV.” In case you can’t figure out what a 60 mile an hour wind is like, we’ll send some dope with a microphone out onto a pier and watch him get blown over the railing while shouting something unintelligible. Get it? Windy! Throw in rain or snow for added effect.

Weather is unlikely a new news subject. One can be pretty sure we’ve had it. And for quite some time. But, apparently, the national networks find themselves short on “real” news and find this a handy substitute.

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