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Ever consider how clueless you'd be if it wasn't for local television news?
During the recent snowstorm, I did what most well-informed people do in these media-obsessed times – I sat and watched television. On this particular morning the news anchors went from one snowbound reporter to another. The reporters were standing at carefully selected locations in the station’s viewing area, all bundled up in the latest, brightly-colored, Thinsulated, Gore-texed designer outerwear, as the fierce snowstorm swirled and whistled around them, making for great video. Despite the clarity of the picture the news anchor – who sat smartly sweatered in the cozy studio – felt compelled to ask each reporter numb questions like: "So, what’s it doing out there, Kent?" Each reporter dutifully answered the silly question, telling the news anchor that it was “snowing” where he or she was." Dah!
“As you and our viewers can probably see, I’m standing in the middle of a snow storm, as we speak." Each reporter went on to say that if we were planning to venture out into the raging snowstorm, we should "use caution," or "be careful" and give ourselves "plenty of extra time" because – listen carefully – "the snow can be slippery" and that characteristic alone has been known to cause weather-related skidding accidents. While these information-laden exchanges were going on, the lower part of my television screen flashed school cancellations and other predictable disruptions that the storm had caused. Since I already knew what falling and blowing snow looked like and I also knew many of the characteristics of snow – it having been an important part of my life experiences from an early age – I turned the television off.
Before long, I was remembering some of the great storms we had back home when I was a kid. In those days we never thought of turning on the television during a storm. It was from the radio that we’d get the "no school" announcement we wanted to hear. Those were the days when snowstorm reporting was in its infancy. Back then the guys at the radio station would just say, "Hey, folks, it’s snowing outside." They never sent anyone out in the snow to report on what it was doing outside. They figured we KNEW what it was doing – SNOWING! They also figured if we wanted to know any more about what it was doing outside, we’d go outside and see for ourselves. Oh sure, radio guys would send someone out in an emergency, like if they ran out of doughnuts or non-dairy creamer for the coffee, but that’s about it.
I know what some of you are thinking: Media people were so unenlightened in those days. How did people manage? Back then television people couldn’t do much no matter how enlightened they were. Their equipment was too heavy and bulky to take outside in the snow. So – during snowstorms – television people were pretty much prisoners in their windowless studios. Viewers in those days were deprived of hearing conversations like: "So, what’s it doing where you are, Mitch?" "Well, Lance, it’s snowing here where I am, as you can probably see, and, as you just finished telling our viewers not three seconds ago, it’s been snowing for some time here in Maine."
Thanks for that informative report, Mitch. You’re right, we can see it’s snowing there as it is here, and, in fact, we do know it’s been snowing everywhere for some time. Regardless of that, we’ll check back with you later, Mitch, and we’ll continue to check back with you so you can tell us essentially the same thing over and over again for the next several hours, or until our sponsors finally figure out that we’re just picking their pockets this morning with these repetitious snowstorm reports and profitable spot-breaks."
As kids we were spared such exchanges. Once we knew school was closed, we’d encase ourselves in several layers of unfashionable, scratchy wool outerwear and go outside.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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