CNN correspondent Nick Watt was reporting on Hurricane Florence on Friday morning from North Myrtle Beach, S.C., when he captured the hypocrisy that TV networks display when it comes to storm coverage. They’ll be the first ones to hype the evacuation orders, to play up the colossal potential of the arriving tempest, to shake their heads at holdouts. And then they stick around to face down the wind and the rain.
“Everybody is hunkered down,” reported Watt at around 11 a.m. “But . . . as this drags on, people will be tempted to go out. People might be tempted to drive around. That is not what people should be doing. The advice is definitely . . . to stay home. . . . Hunker down, no matter how bored you are. Don’t come out, unless you have to report what’s happening.”
And when you do have to report what’s happening, you run up against decades of tradition in storm broadcasting. Think Jim Cantore, the Weather Channel guy who has made a career out of staring down the harshest hurricane winds:
On Friday morning, Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins turned in some noteworthy storm defiance, at one point grabbing onto a chain in Morehead City, N.C., perhaps to stabilize himself against the storm. As water and air battered Jenkins, he delivered some reporting that highlighted his sacrifice: “The amount of water coming over there — the surge — is unthinkable. I was just texting in the last few minutes with Chief Jeff Harvey, the chief of police over in Atlantic Beach, to find out how bad the surge is. He says ‘we haven’t been out for several hours because the conditions are too bad — too many power lines are down, too much destruction on the island from the wind.’ ”
Who knows, maybe these fellows figured into the thinking of Weather Channel correspondent Mike Seidel, who was caught by a Twitter user in an apparently perilous perch doing a standup about the storm’s progress. Standing on a patch of grass in Wilmington, N.C., Seidel said, “This is about as nasty as it’s been.” As he delivered his assessment, his body appeared to be waging a valiant struggle against the elements, swaying back and forth with the vicissitudes of Florence.
Meanwhile, two people walked into the camera shot, strolling along with no apparent strain at all. Enough of words. Watch the video.
Come for the footage, stay for the official explanation from the Weather Channel: “It’s important to note that the two individuals in the background are walking on concrete, and Mike Seidel is trying to maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1:00 a.m. ET this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted.”
The Erik Wemple Blog has followed up with this question to the Weather Channel: “Why was he on the grass, then? Why not put him on the asphalt if that would have been safer?”