Snow Job: Why the media hyped the big bad blizzard of 2015
The “historic” blizzard was a bust, at least in New York City.
Which, in media terms, is the only city that matters.
Having lived through my share of monster snowstorms, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the kind of media freakout that preceded Monday’s weather event. Two feet! Three feet! Snowmaggeddon! Snowpocalypse!
Well, not so much. By Tuesday morning, when the city got a routine January covering of 6 to 8 inches, there was an actual apology.
From the media, for the relentless hype? Let's get real.
It was Gary Szatkowski of the National Weather Service, who tweeted:
“My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public.”
And: “You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry.”
Of course, Juno hammered New England hard with more than two feet in some places. But the networks aren’t based in Boston or Hartford, so that becomes a sidebar.
Now you can say that journalists were just reporting what officials fed them. After all, it was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio who said, “This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City.” It was Gov. Andrew Cuomo who closed all rail service in and out of the city. It was the airport authorities who shut down LaGuardia, JFK and Liberty.
But we all know the drill. Television loves storms! Everyone shifts into team coverage mode. Reporters in parkas stand out in the snow and wind. Anchors stand in front of green-screen maps. It happens every winter, but it’s breaking news. Other news is whited out. “Hardball” turned into “Snowball.”
But the media excel at shifting gears, so a Fox News banner Tuesday morning said: “Critics Slam Decision to Shut Down New York City As An Overreaction.”
I’ll cut the politicians some slack, since overpreparing for an overhyped storm brings a day of criticism, but being unprepared for a killer storm can paralyze a region for 10 days. Botching a snow cleanup has put several mayors’ jobs in jeopardy. “Hindsight is 20/20,” Cuomo said. “You act on the information you have at the time … I’d rather be a little safe than sorry.”
Now that Manhattan has been spared, it’s back to business as usual, until the next scary forecast.