Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Weather Porn

Fry talks about the framing of natural disaster coverage as typically Man vs Nature and the failure of TV news to engage larger public policy issues concerning the prevention of such disasters. There's a rather vivid example of this problem on display right now in the Weather Channel's "Storm Stories" series. In case you're not familiar with it, this weeknight series features spectacular footage of killer tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, etc. packaged in miraculous human interest survival stories. This programming, of course, is on top of the network's increasingly sensationalistic daily coverage of weather events nationwide and it's signature coverage style of a Weather Channel correspondent doing a standup live report amid a raging blizzard or with monster surf crashing behind. What's missing amid all of this exploitative, advertising-fat weather porn, from the standpoint of journalistic ethics and responsibility, is any demonstrated and sustaining commitment to talking about the larger social and economic forces, including of course global warming, that may be a factor in causing such destructive weather events. The network's only concession to such a responsibility is a tepid big-picture program called Our Weather World (or something like that) that airs for an hour or so once a week. Otherwise, the network is attempting to do nothing to directly affect the public policy agenda but rather is happy to cash in on titillating storm video and leave as an open question whether there's really a story here or it's just basically normal weather that happens to make really good TV.

2 comments:

Amanda said...

There's also the movie Twister, which plugged into the weather obsession early on.

The media likes to foster this natural (?) fascination we have with natural weather disasters...why we have this obsession is something else entirely.

Linda said...

more weather porn - tonight on the National Geographic Channel the "Twister Sisters" are doing an hour on tornado chasing. I think it's on at 8 pm. They were interviewed on one of the morning talk shows and had some amazing tornado footage - including the Sisters posing for a photograph in front of an approaching tornado. They take tourists on tornado chases, too, a weather porn cottage industry, I guess.