Sunday, April 21, 2013

New York Times' Ethicist: Way Off Base

In a piece, "Can Just Anyone Claim to Be a TV Meteorologist?", the author, Chuck Klosterman, says,

But this is not the case for those rarefied professions in which strangers rely on someone they’ve never met to possess essential, functional, nonnegotiable knowledge that no normal person could attain without intense schooling or specialized experience. I would place neurosurgeon near the top of this tier. I would place meteorologist near the bottom. 

I suspect the people who live in Joplin would vehemently disagree that meteorologists do not need to have "essential knowledge." I know the people of Greensburg appreciate the 200+ lives meteorologists saved that horrible night in 2007.

During Hurricane Sandy, there was a great deal of confusion 48-hours before landfall that hampered preparations. The confusion was so great the mission of the National Hurricane Center was redefined.

Mr. Klosterman is correct that some television weathercasters incorrectly call themselves meteorologists and he is right to condemn that misrepresentation. But, he is wrong that "strangers" to not rely on meteorologists' special expertise.


  1. I think you read it wrong... He does not say that mets don't have to have essential knowledge. It seems he quite clearly says they do, but that necessity ranks below that of a neurosurgeon (and I'd agree.)

    Actually the very next line says "But still: meteorologists make the cut." which in my mind indicates he thinks meteorologists are important, and why he says weathercasters should not use that term inappropriately. I think the Joplin residents who heard some crappy radar interpretation from "TV weathercasters" might agree?

  2. No, the issue in JLN wasn't the TV mets. They did a relatively good job. It was the NWS that mis-reported the location and direction of movement of the tornado.

    Yes, he says meteorologists make the cut. However, when an F-5 is bearing down on you, you want someone who knows what they are doing. A neurosurgeon's error can't lead to scores of deaths at a given time. Thus my disagreement with his point.

    Thanks for the comment.


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