Last Thursday, Fox News weathercaster Janice Dean veered from the cautious path of other news outlets in hyping oncoming Hurricane Sandy. “WORST CASE SCENARIO!” screamed Dean into the camera, in a performance highlighted extensively by the Erik Wemple Blog. ”Catastrophic” damages expected! Other forecasts were far milder, accenting the possibility for “significant impact” and such purposefully anti-hyperbolic language.
Given what we know about the storm as it makes its way toward landfall, is it too early to vindicate the hyperventilating Dean and her employer? No way!
Look at how up-to-the-moment news stories of other outlets are verily borrowing Dean’s prophetic terms.
CNN headline at 5:05 p.m.: “Sandy could bring ‘catastrophe,’ affect 60 million”
Weather.com header at 5:08 p.m.: “Devastation Imminent”
ABC News roundup at 5:10 p.m.: “The threat from Hurricane Sandy seems to be growing as it nears land with the threat of life-threatening storm surges, gale force winds and rainfall that could cripple transportation and leave millions without power.”
None of this is to suggest that everyone should have been frothing Dean-style on the air several days ago. Says Bryan Norcross, The Weather Channel’s senior director of weather content: “We called the storm exceptional from the beginning. The way the storm is turning out, it is on the extreme end of exceptional,” he says. “But I’m satisfied and happy and pleased with the tone and characterization we’ve made on it because it’s just the nature of forecasting. You don’t forecast the absolute extremes.”
That’s a lesson that even Fox News heeded in the wake of Dean’s warnings. Forecasts on the dominant cable news net on Friday and Saturday were considerably less fiery than Dean’s Thursday (justified, as it turns out) scarefest. Catch Fox News’s Maria Molina and her under-the-top Saturday performance: