As Today show asks if Hurricane Irene coverage is overhyped, I say: welcome to Florida's media world
Hey East Coast Hurricane Irene survivors: Welcome to Florida's media world.
In the wake of a less-powerful-than-expected hit by hurricane-turned-tropical storm Irene, critics and media consumers alike are wrestling with the eternal question: was this weather coverage overhyped?
Distorting the debate, is everyone's agenda. A Today show piece on the issue this morning mostly seemed like a apology or belated bit of butt-covering, presenting politicians (who have their own reasons for justifying shutting down subway systems and evacuation calls) saying the obvious: Being over prepared is better than being underprepared.
The fact is, we media types in Florida discovered long ago that there is no proper way to cover such weather emergencies.
This Storify array of Tweets and commentary presented by the Poynter Institute proves that perceptions of media hype varied according to whether observers were impacted by storm.
Especially on television, where emotion and simplicity rules, the message of preparing for the worst is most important. If the worst doesn't come, people feel misled. But trust anyone who covered the aftermath of Hurricane Charley or Katrina -- when the worst does come, no level of coverage or preparation will feel like enough.
Did some reporters do stupid outside shots standing in dangerous weather? Of course. Did some people say some stupid things? Did media really hyperventilate because the storm threatened the media capitals of New York and Washington D.C.? did the reporter who hopped into a sewage treatment plant maybe go too far? Guilty on all counts.
But its hard to argue with focusing coverage on a storm which has killed 21 people so far. For more important, is to keep the public aware of why such coverage happens, to prevent the kind of cynicism which will keep people from preparing adequately the next time.
Something else we in Florida know a little something about.