Monday, December 15, 2014

Reprehensible Story About Ginger Zee and Television News

One of the reasons I wrote Warnings is because meteorology is the "Rodney Dangerfield of Sciences -- we get no respect" for the thousands of lives we save every year. I thought it was time to set the record straight and for weather scientists to receive at least a measure of the respect I believe we deserve. In Warnings, I call the National Weather Service the taxpayers' biggest bargain and also discuss how private sector weather companies and broadcast meteorologists save lives and contribute to the nation's economy.

You can see the success of weather science versus medicine and automotive safety by going here and clicking on "Declining Death Rates." You'll see that meteorology has been the most successful science at saving lives at a tiny fraction of the cost. Without storm warnings, we would lose 1,000 to 1,100 lives to tornadoes in an average year and, in a year like 2011, we would lose more than 2,000. The reason storms seem trivial is because of the great success of the weather enterprise (NWS, broadcast meteorologists, private sector weather companies). The death rate has been cut 97% since the 1930's by tornado warnings and independent research shows the public's favorite way to receive those warnings is via television.
Cancer Death Rates (lower numbers are better) 
Tornado Death Rates
One of the reasons weather science's successes are hard to understand is that, when we do our jobs well, nothing noteworthy occurs. People don't die. Property isn't destroyed. You certainly realize when your surgeon removes a dangerous tumor. You may not realize your plane landed safely because of a weather warning.

Today, I read one of the most reprehensible stories about meteorology in a long time. It is by the Associated Press' television writer David Bauder. Mr. Bauder seems to have done little or no background research on the subject of weather and television and the huge value of weather warnings and weather awareness. Why are images of a hurricane in the Philippines important to show to U.S. audiences? It has been more than nine years since a major hurricane has struck the United States and many have forgotten how vicious those storms can be (ask Andrew or Katrina's survivors). So, it is important for people to be reminded in case we are not so lucky when hurricane season 2015 rolls around.

He also quotes a blogger named Andrew Tyndall on the subject of ABC News' increased emphasis on weather:

“If Ginger Zee reported in the role of climatologist rather than meteorologist, I would praise ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’s' decision as a daring intervention into a crucial national and global debate,” he said. “Instead, she is more like a pornographer.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/tv/article4446150.html#storylink=cpy

I was left speechless by that comment. Ginger is an extremely hard working, agenda-free scientist who does a terrific job in a position with tight constraints. Calling her a pornographer is beyond the pale. What is shocking to me is that Associated Press would include that comment. And, there was no comment in the story from Ginger. That disregards Journalism 101 where people who are criticized should be given a chance to rebut the criticism.

Scientific research shows the United States has the most violent weather of any nation on earth. So, it is not surprising that weather is often newsworthy. It is a shame Mr. Bauder completely missed a great opportunity to educate people as to why television and weather complement each other rather than writing an unfair, and unfortunate, story.

2 comments:

  1. Ginger is an excellent meteorologist and does an exceptional job of reporting weather conditions and forecasts. Who has heard of David Bauder or cares about his slanted reporting.

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  2. I am a meteorologist at the NWS. I have worked with Ginger over the years. She is a degreed meteorologist who has done much research in the severe wx field. She has worked with some of the highest level weather experts in the country. She has also been stormchasing for a number of years and has plenty of weather cred. So, do your homework before you write these idiotic blogs. The internet has become a toilet for many. Do a blog on making cookies. But somehow I bet you would screw that up too.

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