Reporters In Hurricanes: Heroic Or Stupid?
Is it stupid for reporters to do live shots while standing in middle of a hurricane?
If you watched any Hurricane Irene coverage, you couldn’t avoid seeing dozens of reporters trying to keep their balance while hurricane-force winds tried to knock them down.
Are they doing a public service, or is it an arrogant conceit that unnecessarily risks the safety of reporters and their crews?
When I posed this question on my Facebook page, one commenter asked: “…do you stay out of a war zone or a protest that could turn ugly, too?”
She’s right that reporters have to occasionally risk danger to get the story. But I’d argue that this dangerous journalistic hurricane chasing is less about news value and more about showmanship. Dramatic images fuel higher ratings, and daring reporters receive professional kudos for their “bravery.” Getting blown down by heavy winds, drenched by angry waves, or struck by flying debris has become a de rigueur rite of passage for weather reporters.
Plus, are they really protecting the public by showing them just how dangerous the storm is in person? Doesn’t it stand to reason that viewers might think, “Well, if it’s safe enough for that guy to stand out there…”
Just how dangerous is this type of coverage? In this video, Julie Martin of The Weather Channel slams into an SUV after being hit by a wind gust during 2008’s Hurricane Dolly:
And in this one, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough risks being hit by flying debris during 2004’s Hurricane Jeanne:
When Dan Rather became the first reporter to cover a live hurricane in 1961, it made sense to broadcast from the storm’s center. The public hadn’t seen that shot before, it broke new journalistic ground, and it added to the story. But five decades of these shots have diminished their impact – and their news value.
News organizations will inevitably continue this dangerous practice until the moment a reporter gets seriously injured or killed – at which point they’ll predictably dial it back. In an era when live cams can tell the story well enough during the actual storm, it’ll be a preventable and largely pointless tragedy.
What do you think? Is this type of weather reporting brave and necessary or just plain reckless? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Related: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters of July
I agree. Not that I wish it, but maybe when one of these journalists gets killed out on some beach, the news organizations will take the advice they preach to the rest of us. Get out of the path of a hurricane! This is 2011. Surely, they have the ability to mount a remote controlled camera out there and report from a safe location. Its not like we don’t know what a hurricane looks like, these days.
I think you’re right. I’ve never quite got the reason why reporters stand in the way of a nasty storm. Although, I have chased a tornado through the mid-western fields of Indiana with a photo journalist, so I guess that makes me just as crazy. Maybe it’s the thrill because all normal people find shelter.
I used to think I wanted to experience the full force of a hurricane. Then I worked as an insurance adjuster in the 2004-2005 hurricane season in Florida and on Katrina in Mississippi. I saw the destruction up close. When a concrete roof tile can lift off one side of a roof then fully penetrate the parapet wall on the other side of the roof you get a full picture of the power in a hurricane. When several 8″ thick by 3′ wide by 12′ long concrete roof planks weighing over a ton are lifted off of a banks roof, you see the power that was there.
Picture this: One of the hundreds of broken concrete tiles that comes off of a 5 story condo during the hurricane flutters through the 100+ mph wind as it crosses four city blocks on the way down, then meets a reporters neck as he is giggling into the camera.
Not a pretty news story.
These people do it for ratings. With today’s technology (webcams, sensors…) there is o reason to be “horizontally hanging off of telephone poles “.Simply foolish.
SOOOOO Stupid and Life threatening. I can’t believe their insurance would even cover their funeral expenses.
Best when the news anchors tell them to “Be Safe” ….. Yeah right …. If they were really trying to be safe they would follow the mandatory evacuations just like everyone else should!
So stupid to stand in the middle of dangerous weather just for ratings. If the area is under mandantory evacuation then NO weathermen should be allowed to be in that area. I’m sure some would think if it’s safe for the weathermen then it’s safe to stay. So it seems to me this could be a bad situation. They could actually be responsible for LOSS of
Life instead of saving lives by reporting in 135 mph winds.