The weather is right outside - and it's snowing: A lot

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2013 – Are we stupid? Or do we tolerate others’ thinking we’re stupid? Or is tolerating their treatment, stupid? 

As I write this, it’s snowing, and there’s more snow heading toward us. I know it’s technically Spring, but nobody Up There particularly cares about a calendar. What matters is where the winds are blowing, Down Here.

Occasionally, I watch television. It’s bad enough that an “hour-long” show has a total of 44 minutes of programming, and that, of those 44 minutes, buildups to breaks, introductions, credits and comebacks from breaks take more time; but it’s annoying when the picture is also covered by multi-colored maps of counties that are under storm alerts, watches, and warnings.

Below these maps are the crawlers that tell us the type of alert (because we don’t know how to read the color legend on the map) and which counties are affected (because we don’t know what counties are referenced on the map). They include the map, anyway. Or, looked at another way, they include the crawler, anyway.

So, anyway, a couple times every half-hour, they break into their four-minute segment of actual show with a full-screen “Weather Alert” screen, followed by a shot from some local studio; we then get to listen to a voice from on high tell us that this is a “weather alert.” That’s in case whoever was watching can’t read, or maybe can’t see. The weatherperson comes on, introduces herself as a weather person from our local station (Who the hell else would she be?), and says she has a “weather alert” for our area.

The alert itself lets us know that the counties that have been scrolling across the screen for two hours are under some kind of “weather alert,” and that the severity of the expected weather is what the map, legend, and crawler have been telling us. For ten seconds, we’re treated to a shot out the station’s window, where we can see that it’s snowing. (Of course, we could see that it’s snowing through our own window; we’re in the broadcast area, after all.)

The perky weatherperson then says she’ll keep us updated, in case… something. In case it keeps snowing; or in case it stops; or in case… something. Another few seconds of a “Weather Alert” screen, with a voice-over from The Station’s Voice On High, and we know we “Have just received a Weather Alert from Station KDBO – ‘Dumbo on the Plains’” — and we can expect to be interrupted again, as soon as something else happens… or doesn’t.

We rejoin our program, already in progress. (We KNOW it’s in progress – we’re missing it, remember?) After about 30 seconds of the program we tuned in to watch, the regularly-scheduled commercials are delivered for four minutes.

So, what is the purpose of the report, and why all the redundancies? If someone wants to know that it’s snowing, one can look outside. If one wants a comprehensive weather report, there’s an all-weather, all the time channel available; or there’s a radio; or a smartphone, or a computer. The reason people watch the television programs they choose, is because they want to see the programs, rather than watch a hastily-prepared weather report that cannot rival the professional weather outlets’ programming.

If we’re not smart enough to look out the window (these reports run incessantly, even as the entire viewing area is experiencing snow), and not smart enough to look at the map, and not smart enough to read the crawler, why does the staged interruption in our preferred programming help anything? If we’re at home, we can see what’s out the window. If we’re in the car, we aren’t watching TV.

If we’re planning a trip, we have myriad superior weather-information sources available. But if we’re as stupid as the station thinks we are, what use would such information be? We don’t know where our origin, route, or destinations fall on a map; and we don’t know what county they’re in.

Geez. I’m sorry for the obvious rant, but really: who thinks we’re that stupid? And worse: are they right?

Read more from Tim Kern

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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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