More Messages: Snow Job

Yeah, it's snowing -- and if predictions are even close to accurate, it'll continue to do so for quite some time. But unless I'm very much mistaken, this is Colorado, where snow is a part of life. So why are the local stations reacting to this slow-moving weather system as if a nuclear bomb had just hit the Daniels and Fisher tower?

One word: ratings. With schools closed throughout the metro area, plenty of adults are staying home from work to mind the young folks. These viewers represent a captive audience, and many of them will stayed glued to the tube if broadcasters make the current situation seem scary enough. No wonder channels 7 and 9 preempted Good Morning America and the Today show, respectively, in order to let everyone know that flakes continue to fall.

Thanks for the newsflash.

Granted, weather is big news in these parts. But even if snow totals ultimately exceed those from any storm since 2003, my commute from the Ken-Caryl Ranch area to downtown this morning was actually better than the ones during the days following the storm that hit Denver in late November; my rant about terrible road maintenance back then can be accessed here. This experience suggests that rather than accurately reporting conditions as they develop, stations have chosen to punch the panic button immediately, and will continue to do so for as long as possible.

This approach is good for capturing eyeballs, but not for credibility. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts