For most television stations, other than those rare ones in an area where it’s always sunny and 72°, research will almost always reveal that weather is the most important thing viewers are interested in.
Every television station I’ve ever worked for had conducted research, and weather — particularly severe weather coverage — always ranks at the top of the list, even beating “breaking news,” crime coverage and news about local schools.
These facts bring me to the fourth thing I’ve learned from two decades in television:
Viewers want to know when dangerous storms are on the way…as long as it isn’t coming during the time they’re watching television.
This past weekend, a line of severe weather moved across the southeast. In my area, several tornadoes reportedly touched down, including one in St. Stephen that destroyed a church and a few homes.
In North Carolina, several people lost their lives.
My station received complaints from angry viewers who were upset that their regular programming was being interrupted with weather coverage despite the fact that tornadoes were touching down at that point.
One viewer even tried to lecture us via email about how relatively low the population was of the area seeing the bad weather. Let that guy have been one of the “few” living where the tornado hit and then ask him how he feels about ignoring his community because of its size.
In the nation‘s capital, WJLA-TV weather blogger John Metcalfe apparently had enough with the whining from some of his viewers, who were upset because Jeopardy! was being interrupted:
“This hailstorm of peevishness raises all sorts of mind-bending trains of thought. Do Jeopardy! viewers live in concrete bunkers immune from damaging weather? Does Alex Trebek command such power over his viewers that they don’t care whether they live or die, as long as his beaming face is the last thing they see? Would cutting into the show with tornado news be O.K. if it wasn’t during the ever-so-important double-Jeopardy! round?
And, wasn’t Saturday’s episode a repeat?”
This is now officially one of my favorite television stations!
As Metcalfe pointed out, the storm system was responsible for at least 43 deaths since Thursday.
Many of the same viewers who were upset about missing Jeopardy! likely would have raised hell from their hospital beds if the storm had moved into their neighborhood and were left without any warning just because their local television stations decided that a rerun of a game show is more important than potentially life-saving information.
Sometimes, folks, severe weather will happen. And if your local stations are worth the electricity being expended to stay on the air, they will interrupt whatever program you’re trying to watch to make sure you’re informed.
They’ll even repeat themselves as they cover the danger. That’s because not everyone in your neighborhood has the foresight you do and therefore may not have been watching from the beginning like you have. They may have been outside, away from the television. Or they might just be flipping through the channels and they happen to stop because they see the weather guy where Alex Trebeck or Pat Sajak should be.
When lives and property is in danger, the weather team is going to be on the air. You may end up missing a little of your favorite shows once in a while.
Incidentally, if you missed the first three parts of this series, here are links:
Part 1: Television is a better example of democracy than our voting process.
Part 2: TV viewers don’t really want what they say they want.
Part 3: Most viewers really have no idea what bias actually is.
Comments, as always, are welcome.