Media Makes Circus Out of Florence Coverage [OPINION]
As I write this, Hurricane Florence has just made landfall some 20 miles southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and not the Category 4 monster that was forecast.
Don't misunderstand, a Category 1 storm is a very serious situation in terms of rainfall and flooding, and there is the potential for considerable property loss and some loss of life as well. Fortunately, most folks heeded the warning and cut a trail to higher ground in advance of the storm. But there is a world of difference between a Category 4 "storm of a lifetime" and a Category 1.
Hurricanes, like blizzards and other storms, are a force of nature and very difficult to predict with pinpoint accuracy. They can grow in intensity, fizzle out or change directions without warning. Issuing precise forecasts as to where and when a storm will hit and at what ferocity is difficult at best. The professionals who track these things do the best they can with what they've got.
Where all of this gets crazy is with the media.
The media is in the business of making money and will do what it can to turn a profit. If that means tying reporters to lampposts in advance of a hurricane, they will do it. It also involves scaring the Bejeezus out of the viewers to keep them glued to their sponsored storm coverage. Its all about the buck.
It takes a while to evacuate millions of people in advance of a storm. Many people don't want to leave for fear of what might happen to their belongings in their absence and choose to ride it out. Still, others have become desensitized by the media drama that plays out for as much as a week before a storm's arrival, and do not heed the warnings. When these storms don't live up to their hype, people are less inclined to get out of the way the next time a storm is forecast.
I believe that folks should always take storm warnings seriously and be prepared to move if they face danger. But there needs to be a balance between the information people need to receive and the over-hyped media circus we are treated to every time the wind blows.
With all of the attention Florence has gotten, you can almost understand why some folks were expressing disappointment on social media this week that Massachusetts was going to miss out on the storm. Almost.
Here is hoping Florence dissipates with only minimal damage and few, if any, casualties. And here's hoping the media can find a way to be more responsible in its coverage of weather events.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.