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Snow News Is Good News: A Blizzard of TV Coverage

Tuesday, March 1, 2005; Page C01

To: All ActionEyewitnessTVNews

Personnel

From: News director

Subj: Snow coverage.

Folks: Just wanted to offer a few reminders about how our TV station covers snowfall in the Washington area:

1. We mobilize "full team coverage" whenever snow is predicted, is falling or has fallen. We also do it if snow might fall. Or if it happens to be January, February or March.

2. Backdrop graphics: Before it snows, the sign on screen should read, "Snow on the Way?" If we get 1 to 2 inches, it's "Snow Emergency!" Three to 7 inches: "Killer Storm!" Anything more, we run with "Avalanches, Cannibalism Feared."

3. Anchors: Use dramatic verbs, even for minimal snow totals. Bad: "The region received a dusting today." Better: "Snow paralyzed/pummeled/blasted/buried the Washington area today." Better still: "Armageddon."

4. Reporting locales: The overpass. The city salt hut. The big-box hardware store. The supermarket (remember: Any market in which three shoppers are buying milk, bread or toilet paper simultaneously constitutes "panic buying").

5. Interview subjects: Anyone out walking or driving in snow. (Required question: "You're walking/driving . . . in THIS weather?") Cute kids home from school. The first guy to buy a shovel at Home Depot.

6. Best winter-weather footage, in terms of ratings: a) Car/bus failing to climb icy hill; b) More impressive snowfall somewhere else; c) Two cars skidding into each other (will accept video of this occurring ANYWHERE in U.S.).

7. Advice to weather forecasters: "Snow" is a terribly overused word. Instead, use weathery sounding words such as "precip" or "wintry mix." When in doubt, fall back on "the white stuff."

8. As soon as the snow stops, go with new graphic: "Winter Wonderland!"

And never admit we got the forecast wrong. Bundle up!

-- Paul Farhi


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