9/20/2011 4:44:09 PM
Tom Butts is the Editor in Chief of TV Technology.
Nature abhors a vacuum and so do TV news directors. So when one of the most powerful storms in recent memory took aim at the East Coast last month, broadcasters were ready with their best and most advanced tools. It was a major news story in a particularly slow period of the year and in one of the world's most populous regions. Stations from North Carolina to Maine suspended normal programming to bring wall-to-wall coverage of the event, with reporters lashing themselves to trees and getting covered in sea foam. Some of it bordered on parody.
Except it wasn't. Unfortunately, many of the same tired, old criticisms were unfairly aimed squarely at broadcasters, some of whom risked their lives to deliver the latest pictures from the coast. Yes, perhaps some of it could be described as "overkill," but the vast majority of the coverage was responsible and warranted.
Much of the criticism came from social media, a growing source of news and information that—while it can be very useful in such situations—lacks the filter which broadcasters provide to separate fact from fiction, especially in emergency situations.
Perhaps the critics were finally silenced once the pictures of the terrible flooding in New Jersey and Vermont started coming in. More than 40 people lost their lives and it will take months, if not years, for many East Coast residents to get back to normal. Broadcasters have nothing to apologize for.