15 STRAIGHT HOURS OF LIVE WEATHER COVERAGE
If you watched 15 straight hours of our Weatherplus coverage yesterday God bless you, but that's not what we expected, nor why we stayed in continuing coverage for so long.
I like to use this space to explain, when appropriate, why we do what we do. Not everyone will agree with the decisions we make as a news organization and television station. Not everyone will agree, even after I explain, but here are some of the reasons we went for widely expanded local coverage yesterday.
Barring another snow storm of this magnitude, I can't imagine a story that affects more of our viewers more profoundly in the coming year. When we decide what stories to cover and how to cover them, one of the primary criteria is an analysis of how many people are affected, and in what way. This storm affected everyone, and in major ways.
The conditions were ever changing. Another reason we stayed on the whole time, was with each fresh flake things changed and deteriorated. Roads became impassible. 2 people were killed in accidents in the Milwaukee area. Evening activities were canceled. Cars were towed off the streets. The Airport closed... not for an hour or two... but for the night. As I write this, Mitchell International remains shut down.
Governor Jim Doyle declared states of emergency in two Wisconsin counties. Nearly 1000 vehicles were snowbound. As I write this, hundreds of people are still stranded in their cars and trucks on I39/I90 near Madison.
Again, barring another big old storm, this will be the biggest snowstorm of the decade. Craig Koplien mentioned this morning that the last storm of this magnitude was January, 1999.
Finally, when news events like this happen, people watch. The most concrete feedback we get from our viewers is the measurement of their behavior. Historically our ratings skyrocket during weather events. That tells us that there's an audience for extended coverage. It tells us that's what our customers want. No, not all of them... but more of them than not.
A criticism often levied in these situations is that we do what we do to achieve higher ratings. That is true, though we don't view it as a criticism. We do, what we do, so that people watch it.
To criticize for airing programing or news based on what people want seems a little silly. It's like "accusing" Harley Davidson of trying to sell more motorcycles. "Accusing" cooks of making food that people order. "Accusing" the Packers of trying to win more games. We want you to watch. We want more of you to watch us than anybody else. When you do, we take note of it and try to replicate the conditions that caused you to tune in.
Not everyone will agree with the decision we made yesterday. I will be posting some of the dissenting views on my next entry this morning. I invite your comments, good or bad, on our coverage yesterday.