Stocking Up on Hype for the Hurricane

It’s probably not good form before the dire landfall to complain about hurricane hype.

Irene may well prove to be among the most fearsome beasts ever witnessed by the East Coast.

Or she could be like Earl last year, when all manner of hysterical warning made way for what turned out to be not a single drop of rain, at least in the Connecticut environs where I worked, in a news organization that hyped it incessantly, only to congratulate itself on how much internet traffic and ratings it got..

Local news goes into autopilot when it comes to spinning trouble headed stateside — mostly because there is a lot of time to do it — days and sometimes a week. And in that time there is the usual stuff: talk to local officials, view the waves that now seem so threatening, show pictures of panic at the hardware and grocery stores (which only serve to cause more panic at the same places).

Yes, people should be aware and cancel their waterside activities for the day and be reasonably ready for electric outages, but are we really supposed to believe, as one local reporter blithely suggested, that we all put plywood over all our windows until this thing blows over? Really? All of us? Every house and every window? Is it responsible to even suggest such a thing (unless one owns a lumber store)?

Another reporter, instead of actually giving viewers the news, directed them to her station website and described what kind of information could be found there (Hey there, you happen to be on the television right now speaking, why don’t you just TELL us).

As if to gauge interest in the story, she commented on how many hits she’s gotten about the storm so far. And suddenly it becomes very clear that driving force in impending hurricane coverage is not the hart hitting storm itself, the the storm of hits that result.

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