AtmoLife has discussed the inefficiencies of severe weather cut-ins before, and while these problems aren’t something that can be corrected overnight, they harm the reputation of meteorologists working hard to keep people safe and informed. Instead of proverbially beating this proverbial dead horse however, we’re only going to discuss what caused the latest incident of public outrage and then on a scale of 0 to 10, rate the validity of the ensuing outrage fueled takes.
Columbus, Ohio residents became the latest to lash out over a severe weather cut-in when a tornado warning yesterday interrupted CBS affiliate WBNS-10TV’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Sure basketball is exciting, and nobody wants to see it interrupted, but a tornado threat is far more important than a game, right? Well, the central Ohio public sure as hell doesn’t see it that way, and a little perusing of 10TV’s facebook comments and twitter mentions makes this apparent.
For one, this wasn’t just any hoops game. It was a rematch featuring two of college basketball’s blue blood programs, Kentucky and North Carolina, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Furthermore, the cut-in began with under 17 seconds remaining in a tightly contested finish, but immediately after a full commercial break.
So what did Central Ohio hoops fans miss during these final 17 seconds? Only the most spectacular ending to a college basketball game all season.
Instead, folks in the Columbus viewing area saw nothing but a black screen and warning crawl while hearing the voice of 10TV’s Meteorologist Jeff Booth discuss the tornado threat (You can watch a video of the cut-in here). While it’s obviously no fault of the network or Jeff Booth that severe weather was occurring at an incredibly inconvenient time, the cut-in could have been handled more effectively.
This black screen was the result of a “massive technical failure” for which 10TV released an apology. What is unclear however, is what caused this failure, along with what the intentions of the local CBS affiliate were. Were they planning to fully cut away from the game? Were they attempting to work in some type of split screen or just keep the game on screen with the warning crawl and voice over? While viewers would certainly appreciate an effort to not cut away from the game completely, that was still the result they got, and now they’re pissed.
I can’t blame them either. As much as I enjoy severe weather and understand its implications, I’d be livid if my local network cut away from a critical moment of a critical game like this, especially if I was a fan of either team. While I understand the perspective of people who complain about cut-ins interrupting Survivor and have stood up for their arguments, they’re still fun to mock because I think shows like that are dumb. But this game was important, dammit. I actually empathize with college basketball fans. I mean, not as much as I empathize with people impacted by severe weather, but still, missing the ending to that game had to suck.
With that in mind, lets stick to mocking only SOME of the viewers. While skimming through thousands of online gripes, only a handful of unique arguments were made. I will paraphrase each argument and rate them on a scale scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being a completely valid complaint.
“There wasn’t even a tornado!” – 0: This complaint is essentially a criticism of the tornado warning itself while being too ignorant to realize it. Our science isn’t yet capable of guaranteeing which specific storms will produce tornadoes, but we know the type of storms that often produce tornadoes, and this storm was that type. So yeah, a tornado didn’t occur, but it easily could have, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“I received the warning on my phone anyway!” – 2: Sure, to the many viewers already informed of the tornado warning, 10TV’s one job was to broadcast the game, but not everyone watching the game has a smart phone or internet connection (Looking at you, Kentucky fans). Besides, the local meteorologist is much better equipped to provide you with details of the warning than your phone is. But hey, as dumb as this argument is, it comes from a tech-savvy generation of people who can easily ditch their cable package and stream the game online, so TV stations need to do more to keep them happy.
“They could’ve just waited till after the game!” – 4: Despite there only being 17 seconds remaining on the game-clock, the game took a full 6 minutes to complete, which can be seen by the post-game handshakes at the end of the 6-minute cut-in. The final seconds of basketball games tend to drag on, and a minute or 2 of additional lead-time in communicating warnings often has a huge impact on whether or not people survive.
“I would rather die in a tornado than miss the end of this game!” – 5: Well, I can’t argue with your preference, but I feel that not everyone in the viewing area shares your opinion.
“The tornado warning wasn’t anywhere near me!” – 7: Hey, that’s the inefficiency we discussed last time, as mentioned above (Here’s the link again). While this may not be easy or quick for local networks to fix, the method of how digital signals are transmitted with respect to geography is something stations and providers should evaluate if they want to keep their customers happy.
“They could’ve cut in during the commercials right before!” – 8: So this is a decent argument assuming that the meteorologist had received all necessary information and was not only ready to cut-in during said commercial break, but could also deliver the full briefing before the game returned. While the commercial break wasn’t 6-minutes long, it still may have been long enough to effectively communicate the warning. The fact that 10TV cut away right as the game came back on really makes it seem like the station was intentionally waiting until after the commercials. TV stations have an extremely annoying habit of choosing to cut-in during programming rather than commercials because they don’t want to lose advertisement revenue. Yes, the money is important, but news stations deserve every bit of criticism they receive from viewers when they decide that commercials are more important than the programs drawing the audience.
“They could’ve just gone to a split-screen/warning-crawl/voice-over-with-the-game-still-on!” – 9: It seems like that’s what 10TV tried to do, which would also justify waiting until after the commercials, but hey, the execution is just as important as the intention.
10TV should have been better equipped to handle the technical aspect of their cut-in, but they get an unfair share of the blame for the shitty timing of the tornado threat. Jeff Booth also deserves credit for not spoiling the game while discussing the weather. That would’ve been a tough task for me to personally accomplish. Here’s what I envision my black screen cut-in would sound like.
“Hi, everyone, sorry to interrupt, but to our viewers in Franklin County, including the west parts of Columbus, you are currently under a tornado warni- Ooh North Carolina misses the free throw. Kentucky’s got the ball and can tie it up with a 3! Doppler radar is indicating rotation just south of London, with the storm moving northwest at around thirty-MONK DRAINS THE 3! IT’S TIED! WHAT A SHOT! 7 seconds left! We expect the storm to reach the outskirts of Columbus within the next LUKE MAYE HITS THE GAME WINNER! NORTH CAROLINA IS GOING TO WIN! THIS IS THE GREATEST GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT! But yeah, if you’re in the area, seek shelter immediately.”