Monday, February 17, 2003

Do weather with 100% chance of apologies



With all their Tower Cams, Fast-Forward Weather and Million-Dollar Multi-Dopplers, the local TV weather guys tend to look alike.

So I have an idea that could set one station apart:

Instant Replay Weather.

How about starting the 11 p.m. forecast by showing whether they got it right the night before?

Wouldn't you have wanted to see a replay Tuesday night of last Monday's weathercast - hours before that surprise snow during morning rush hour clogged highways and closed schools? Let's go to the videotape!

A little candor - sometimes served with crow - could draw huge ratings. And Instant Replay Weather would educate us on the inexact science of predicting storm systems.

Instead we get this air of superiority from TV stations asking us to trust The Forecasters, and heed The Weather Authority.

We don't want First Weather. We want Correct Weather.

A bit of a surprise?

At noon Tuesday, Channel 5 meteorologist Mark Massaro told viewers: "The timing of this snow was a bit of a surprise for those responsible for clearing the roadways."

Duh! Maybe it's because they watched the 11 p.m. news?

Channel 12's Chris Balish told viewers the sneaky snow "caught Tristate residents off-guard."

Yeah, because we believed the weathermen who said snow wouldn't arrive until midday?

Often the TV stations sound as if they had no role in our lack of preparation, our frustration at being stuck in traffic, and our exasperation in trying to find day care for kids not in school. Frequently it's just not on their radar.

TV weathercasters love to joke about delivering the great, sunny weather in spring, summer or fall. But how often do you hear them take the blame when they blow it?

They call it No Wait Weather. To us it's No Fault Weather.

Go ahead, admit it

I'm convinced TV stations could develop a real warming trend with viewers at 11 p.m. if they'd admit - 24 hours later - that they didn't get it right.

The morning weather folks sometimes acknowledge that the late-night forecast missed by a mile. And the meteorologists on the 5-6:30 p.m. news may explain what went wrong.

But by 11 p.m., the so-called newscast of record, the forecasters are so focused on tomorrow that they usually don't mention their previous night's predictions.

Why not Instant Replay Weather? What's wrong with saying the computer models didn't expect the snowstorm to race across Indiana at 100 mph? (Computer models? Don't you wonder if supermodels could do just as well?)

If a TV station was truly on your side, its storm team would explain why the precision Doppler weather center was, well, imprecise. Inexact. Misleading. Misinterpreted. Askew. Amiss. Wrong.

Today's forecast: A chance of accuracy. (Keep your shovel handy.)

If you performed your job at the same level of reliability as a TV meteorologist, wouldn't you expect the I-Team knocking on your door?

Hey, Howard, how about a "12 in Touch" telephone poll asking viewers how often weather forecasts are correct?

In Cincinnati, two stations now broadcast seven-day forecasts - even though meteorologists admit that the farther out you predict, the greater the probability for error.

What's next: A 10-day forecast? Two weeks? Don't they realize we'd settle for getting one day right?

Which reminds me of George Carlin's old Hippy Dippy Weatherman routine: "Tonight's forecast: Dark! Followed by widely scattered light."

It would be nice to see the meteorologists at 11 p.m. acknowledge more often that they're not infallible. Instant Replay Weather would show they are human, like the rest of us, just trying to do the best job they can. I'm sure we'd respond to the honest approach.

We would gladly trade First, Fast and Accurate any day for Reasonable, Reliable and Right. What we want is less hype, and more humility.


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