Sunday, December 08, 2013

Stormy Weather

This is my favorite time of year for watching local television news.
It’s not the car crashes or the quirky videos lifted directly from social media and presented as fact.
It’s certainly not the nightly murder and mayhem report, complete with lingering close-ups of grieving loved ones.
It’s not a local sports anchor doing his segment wearing a L.A. Kings jersey, demonstrating that impartiality has no place in his corner of the world.
If you really want to see TV strut its stuff, bring on the weather.
A cold snap, a bit of rain, and it’s all hands on deck for team coverage.
Case in point: It’s been a bit nippy this week in Southern California. Not Upper Peninsula of Michigan cold but enough to warrant a sweater. As TV host Jimmy Kimmel disclosed, “I had to wear two tank tops to work today.”
He was joking, of course, but I did see a guy this week wearing flip flops and cargo shorts topped with a North Face ski jacket and a stocking cap. Ah, Southern California.
Against this backdrop, the local TV reporting ranks have been unleashed like hounds at a fox hunt, while their anchor cohorts urge them on by chirping phrases like “Arctic blast” and “bone-chilling.”
They descend on an unsuspecting public, firing queries like, “Cold enough for you?” or “How do you like the rain?”
The answers are usually as deep and insightful as the questions.
The result is compelling entertainment, especially if you disdain originality and enjoy a laugh at what passes as “breaking news.”
But wait a minute. Is it really “news” at all?
I noticed the locals this week beating a path en masse to the Antelope Valley to report on our brush with winter.
Why? By heading north, they’re guaranteed a bit of chill. That’s because the average low temperature in Lancaster for the months of December and January is about 30 degrees.
So when our intrepid reporters, bundled up like Arctic explorers, announce that it’s cold outside while doing a remote from the high desert, it’s rather like disclosing that the sun sets in the west.
OK, we understand that TV is a visual medium and there is a lot of air time to fill, even if it’s filled with, well, so much air.
And we understand that if it drops below 40 degrees in L.A., it’s news although we would prefer it without all the apocalyptic overtones. We need facts, not FEMA.
Look in on the weather folks in Denver, for example, and you see a decided lack of drama in the forecasts.
One young woman on the NBC affiliate this week described a high of 8 and a low of minus-10 as “pretty chilly.” Over on CBS, the forecaster conceded it was “a little on the chilly side” while predicting wind-chill temperatures of 30-below zero.
Back in Los Angeles, a reporter advised people to stay inside while the current temperature flashed on the bottom right of the screen. It read 56 degrees.
So are we the worst weather wimps in the world? It’s a chicken-and-egg question. Is the local TV community merely reporting what all of us feel as we bundle up when it falls below 60? Or do we feel cold because TV tells us we should?
Who really cares? Personally, I wouldn’t live any place else. I lived for awhile in San Francisco where dampness seeps into your bones and moss will grow on your legs if you’re not careful. And I lived in Washington, D.C., where I was introduced to the snow shovel. It was loathe at first sight.
Nice places to visit, as the old saying goes.
And just for the record, the lowest recorded temperature in downtown Los Angeles was 24 degrees on Dec. 22, 1944.
Now, that’s cold.

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