It’s been in another life, back when I was an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska, but my bachelor’s degree was in meteorology. In my last year as an undergrad, I took a “remote sensing” (basically satellite imagery) course and fell in love with it. Because of that I ended up going to grad school in Geography, and ended up working for the USGS. My life as a meteorologist was thus a short 4 years as an undergrad before I moved on to a different career path. Given what, to me, has been an INCREDIBLY fast 23 years or so since then, at this stage I could, at best, only be deemed a marginal meteorologist.
However, I certainly still know the main concepts of meteorology, enough to read the “scientific forecast discussion” that’s in small print on the weather forecasts, to read the notes of the meteorologists. I still follow the weather closely, and in times of severe weather, am a severe weather ”junkie”. I thus found it rather funny, and rather maddening, to see the headlines on MSNBC (still prefer term that over NBC news), and later, on CNN today, talking about the impending severe weather threat, with ominous phrases of the coming of the “Feared Derecho“.
What’s that? Haven’t heard of a “Derecho“? Your local weatherman doesn’t use the term when he gives his forecast? I would bet the house that the term “Derecho” never had appeared on the MSNBC or CNN web pages before today. However, today, the fine “journalists” for these two news outlets decided to make “Derecho” the term of the day, warning of the feared consequences of a weather phenomenon most people likely have never heard of.
The stories today on MSNBC and CNN played up the potentially deadly consequences of a Derecho, and noted that it could be possible that such an event could slam the Midwest today. They then noted the potentially dire consequences, with catastrophic damage and casualties possible. OK, sure, actually PREDICTING such a rare event is something even meteorologists would avoid, but that didn’t stop these fine “journalists” from playing the “story” up all day today.
I get it. After the Oklahoma tornadoes that have occurred over the last several weeks, severe weather stories are hot right now. They are likely to attract a lot of readers. However, I find it more than just a little irresponsible for a “news” outlet like MSNBC or CNN to make it sound like there’s an impending Derecho, and to make it the HEADLINE STORY for much of the day, despite the very tiny chance of such a weather event having a big impact today, or even occurring at all for that matter.
I’ve had both my wife and a colleague at work independently note the ridiculous, sensationalist headlines on the CNN.com front pages over the last week. Stories about violence in Turkey are interspersed with fluff about pop culture, or even worse, BS stories such as this “Derecho” story that are simply trying to play off the recent severe weather, and off of people’s fears.
I just don’t bother spending much time on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News (duh), or other mainstream “news” sites any more. It seems that at least 2/3rds of their “journalists” are devoted to sensationalist fluff pieces. Give me the Washington Post and the New York Times, and I’m good to go with the REAL news. Hell, give me a good BLOG and I feel better informed than I do after reading any of the main “news” sites.
Give it a rest, MSNBC and CNN. The entire upper Midwest is NOT in danger of being wiped off the face of the planet tonight due to a rare meteorological phenomenon that 99% of people haven’t ever heard of. How about returning to report the actual NEWS for a change?