Commercial media (and others who serve them) over-hype actual and even potential forecasts of bad weather because often that lets them activate higher-cost advertising – kind of like the sensationalistic screamer headlines in tabloids, designed to attract more ‘eyeballs’ – often called things like “Operation Snowflake” and “Stormcenter.” Commercial media have “Snowflake [etc.] sponsors” lined-up in advance each year or bad-weather season. I’m not sure if they just dump the cheaper ads, or keep both. But the broadcaster has complete control over when it decides to “declare the Stormcenter open,” and the money rolls in automatically.
I suppose if there were super-excessive abuse by the broadcaster, sponsors might rebel, but I haven’t noticed any change after a number of high-profile examples in recent years, have you? It may be like playing the one-armed bandit: ‘one of these times’ they’ve gotta hit the jackpot!
Now, maybe not all weather gaffes are greedy. Also, there’s a natural tendency in U.S. journalism, especially broadcast (TV and radio), to focus on threats and bad news and fear, as Michael Moore pointed out in Bowling for Columbine. As the saying goes, it does focus a viewer’s attention to know that he is to be hanged in a fortnight – or maybe stuck in a snowdrift then. Plus, who wouldn’t like to be able to predict news, especially news that affects everyone; when anywhere close to accurate, that’s the ultimate in public service, right? But compare the 1980s to today, and it’s clear to me the weather hype is exponentially greater.
So one must wonder….
(Meanwhile we could actually use more attention on Global Warming – that’s REAL bad news!)