A while back, a retired TV weather personality complained about ‘nanny forecasters’ who assume their audience generally lacks common sense.
A former TV meteorologist has had enough of “nanny forecasters.”
Bill Giles led the weather team on the BBC for 17 years until he retired in 2000. Apparently, in his retirement, he has continued to watch television weather forecasters and doesn’t like what he sees and hears.
A while back, he accused TV weather folk — in Great Britain, they’re called “weather presenters” — of “behaving like nannies” and behaving as if they assume their viewers have no common sense whatsoever:
“On frosty and snowy nights, does the forecaster really need to tell people to watch out on untreated roads and pavements? I think they could safely just mention the ice and expect viewers to use their common sense.”
He worries that the level of warnings that have now become the norm in weathercasts may lead to people taking warnings about genuine threats less seriously.
The problem Giles seems to overlook is that while as much as 95% of the audience does have enough common sense to know to stay indoors when a storm is coming or take caution when roads flood, there’s that remaining five percent that doesn’t seem to.
When’s the last time you saw coverage, for example, of a major flood and didn’t see footage of someone having to be rescued from a car that became stranded after the motorist drove right into a flooded roadway and found themselves overcome with water?
When is the last year that, despite dire warnings about significantly hot days, there wasn’t someone who didn’t leave either a child or a pet — or even both — alone, closed up inside a hot car? Seriously, can you remember the last year in which it didn’t happen at least once? I’ve worked in television for more than 26 years now, and honestly, I can’t.
It happens every year. Often, it happens with deadly consequences.
Every time I hear a meteorologist warn about a strong threat of rip currents, a strong undercurrent that can quickly sweep a swimmer further out to see and cause serious danger of drowning; or when I hear there’s a strong chance of dangerous winds and strong surf from a coming storm, I can always count on one fact of life: when I call up a beach camera, I’ll see people headed into the water.
Maybe doctors should stop telling their overweight patients that they need to move around a little bit more, that they need to become a bit more active in their lives, so that they might have a chance at avoiding weight-related illness.
Maybe police departments should stop warning residents about the importance of locking their car doors and then ignore calls from people who claim someone opened their unlocked cars and stole items.
Maybe parents should stop teaching their children the importance of looking both ways before they cross the street.
In a perfect world, maybe all such “common sense” warnings would be unnecessary.
This isn’t a perfect world. Not by a long shot.
Weather forecasters and the broadcast stations for whom they work have an obligation to their communities to alert people to weather dangers. There will never be complete agreement on how much warning is enough.
But for the sake of people who seem unable to figure out the obvious, it seems to me that a little extra warning might be better than a little less warning.