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February 10, 2017

Local TV’s obsession with weather a real snow job

Perhaps coverage for these events could be limited to telling us how much is going to fall, and then what the next day’s weather will be

Earlier this week, we here in the Valley of Delaware were treated to another annoying, if not unexpected, round of insanity: the near-orgasmic state TV news types got themselves into while huffing and puffing about—to hear them tell it—an End-of-The-World-level snowstorm, which, of course, never materialized.

Only four-to-six inches were forecast for most of the Philly area (it didn’t even reach that in most places). And an almost-immediate melt-inducing warm-up was likewise predicted. But borderline hysteria, as always, prevailed on the airwaves.

I understand why weather is so important to local TV news. In a coverage area as sprawling as that of channels 3, 6, 10 and 29 (we’re talking more than 25,000 square miles!) there is little beyond weather and professional sports that will interest people in Quakertown and Cape May, Chester Springs and Glassboro. But exactly whose interests are served by the inevitable remote reports from a PennDOT depot, where somber-toned reporters show-and-tell us that—wonder of wonders!—workers will be salting roads?

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This might have been news at one time—say the first time an impending snowstorm was reported on TV (a mere 60 to 65 years ago). But today, the only “news” from these inevitable and downright stupid segments is that state employees are doing exactly what they are paid to do. Seems to me, it would be news if they weren’t prepping for the snow.

In addition to the above idiocy, Wednesday saw repeated reports on folks buying food and snow-clearing supplies. Again, in what universe does this count as “news?” Do we really need to know that folks in Darby filled the local Ac-A-Me for provisions?

And in the storm’s immediate aftermath, things were equally ridiculous: For instance, NBC10’s Thursday morning coverage included such riveting dispatches as people in Allentown shoveling their sidewalks and plows pushing what little snow was visible from the parking lot at the Cherry Hill Mall.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe this is information I need to exist in the modern world. If so, would someone from one of the local TV news operations please explain why?

In the absence of such an explanation, here’s a modest suggestion: Perhaps coverage for run-of-the-mill snow events could be limited to telling us how much is going to fall, and then, afterwards, how much fell and what the next day’s weather will be.

Not only would that spare us the inanity of TV’s “Chicken Little” default position every time a few flakes are on the way, but it would free up lots of time with which TV news programs could maybe, just maybe, provide information that is actually relevant and important.

Chuck Darrow is a veteran entertainment columnist and critic. Listen to “That’s Show Biz with Chuck Darrow” 3 p.m. Tuesdays on WWDB-AM (860),, iTunes, iHeartRadio, and TuneInRadio.

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