Stop The Hype About The Hype: Hurricane Irene

Alan BelniakGeneral, media, passion6 Comments

Hype - - kerryank

There was a lot of hype around the impending arrival of Hurricane #Irene over the August 26 – August 28, 2011 weekend along the eastern seaboard of the US.  A lot of media were talking about it via multiple channels, from TV and radio, to Twitter and Facebook, and everything else in between.  In fact, in the hyper-connected, always-on, WiFi/3G/4G world we live in, it was a challenge to not be exposed to it.


So – what’s the problem?


After Irene (we’re on a first-name basis) made landfall and was weakened, I instantly read and heard (before I lost power) stories about people claiming the media overhyped the power of Irene.  Originally projected to carry category 2 power, and with a huge wind field, it was projected that her path of destruction was to be large, and not small (and that’s relatively speaking).  I watched The Weather Channel on and off for a bit.  They had all kinds of content prepared, from live feeds, to projections, to what-if scenarios.  Essentially, the kind of content you’d expect a station called The Weather Channel to produce.  And I know other stations and such were in people’s faces (and can’t use the same defense a station like The Weather Channel can, but the same logic applies).


I don’t recall seeing any “Run for the hills!  The sky is falling! Say your last rites!” messaging.  I saw “A hurricane is approaching, and our data indicates it could be a big one.  Prepare.  And that means you, mid-Atlantic region and New England – you’re not used to getting these.”


Were the reporters passionate and a bit in-your-face?  Yep.  That’s their job.  Would you have liked someone along the lines of Ben Stein (in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off) to deliver the message about a hurricane?  No, you wouldn’t.  The meteorologists and other associated weather folk and disaster people ‘hyped’ this because they needed to get our attention.  Ten years ago, we weren’t bombarded with always-on TV, 200+ channel cable setups, Twitter and Facebook, SMS, and the like.  If it seems like you were hit from all angles, it’s because you were.  So stop subscribing.  Tune in to what you want, tune out what you don’t.


Be thankful that the storm was weaker than initially projected.  The weather folk get excited because it’s what they do (it’s their passion – good for them!).  Consider the alternative: they play this off like it’s no big deal, and we lose power for a week and see downed trees.  Who’s the first to get attacked?  Yep, them.  If the weather people portrayed this with as much fanfare as Gerlado Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault, then that’s a different story – that’s Emmy-hunting.  But I’ll take this amount of hype for a natural disaster any time.


They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  This wasn’t over-hyped. They did their job alerting people of a potential natural disaster.  Ease up.


Update: Ted McEnroe (@tmcenroe) has a related post about this same topic.  Thanks, Rachel, for letting me know.

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