Some days it’s just painful to wake up to being a journalist in America.
Given the profession’s credibility problems, you’d think everyone would be on their best behavior from the receptionist at the local newspaper to the weather reporter on national cable television.
But, of course, if you thought that you’d be wrong.
Leave it to reporter Mike Seidel of The Weather Channel to engage in physical shenanigans to hype his coverage of Hurricane Florence, now Tropical Storm Florence, and for The Weather Channel to then defend the behavior with the excuse that Seidel was struggling to “maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1 a.m. ET this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted.”
Right. (And ignore the Channel’s terrible sentence structure.)
Wet grass and fatigue always force you to crouch and brace yourself for 70 mph winds when an on-video anemometer is showing a wind speed of 29 mph to match the behavior of the people in shorts strolling around in the background of the scene.
Fatigue might also explain the wind gust that hits 48 mph about the time Seidel claims “this wind gusting again over 60 mph.” And the slippery grass surely makes Seidel pick up a conveniently discovered shingle, toss it in the air and proclaim: “see what happens when you throw it up; it just takes off like a projectile.”
Only it doesn’t take off like a projectile. It sails away like a leaf in a 29 mph wind, the kind of winds that seemed to blow on the Anchorage Hillside for much of the summer. Daily winds of 20 to 45 mph do not make you wobble side-to-side.
The old Beaufort Wind Scale, which traces its roots back to 1805, actually has visual indicators for wind speeds. It says an umbrella becomes hard to use at a wind speed of 31 mph, according to the version the National Weather Service’s online post.
At 47 to 54 mph, some “slates”, what we call roofing shingles today, might get blown loose, although Consumer Reports in its roofing guide notes many companies now warranty shingles to stay on the roof at up to 85 mph.
Trees don’t start going down until the winds reach 55 to 63 mph. A sustained 55 mph wind might cause Seidel the sort of difficulty in standing in one place that he was displaying on camera, but he wasn’t out in 55 mph winds.
The rules of the Society of Polite Journalists (SPJ) would appear to prohibit that. And mainly, the Post’s Angela Fritz seemed to be trying to pitch her newspaper’s attempt at more accurate coverage of the storm:
‘The wind is not the story here, and everyone knows it because they watched Florence drop in strength before it made landfall.
“The real threat in Florence is not the wind, it is the rain. We have known this would be the case for days. Maybe as much as 50 inches will fall in the Carolinas and will generate life-threatening flash flooding through the weekend.”
That’s still to come. One can only guess what the Reality News Shows of today might do to hype that. An underwater tour of a flooded house, maybe, with a reporter buffeted by a raging current?
In the interests of all journalism, The Weather Channel should have given Seidel a few days off to contemplate his behavior. He could have used the time to respond to the comments on his Facebook page where he is taking a rather lively beating, some of which is pretty funny.