In the modern sound-and-fury news environment, Reddit users are finding shelter from the storm in the voice and presentation of Alabama meteorologist Alan Sealls of WKRG, the CBS affiliate for Mobile.
The TV station posted Sealls’s hurricane update on Irma, Jose and Katia on YouTube. It’s routine for Sealls, a 30-year TV news veteran, and for any local TV station with a YouTube channel. By Thursday morning, the station’s video found itself topping Reddit’s front page (a difficult achievement and a sign of a viral hit) and the third most trending clip on YouTube.
Viewers admired Sealls for “being careful to admit the high variance in possibilities for the hurricane tracks” and said they prefer his presentation over anything on national news networks. They lamented the weather anchors in their own towns, who “are so excited by things like this that they’ll trip over their words and repeat themselves. They’re like kids in candy stores.”
Other users found an introduction video to Sealls, which contributed to the “Bob Ross” or “Mr. Rogers” effect that Sealls seems to have on fans. His motivational advice to aspiring young folks? “You gotta be prepared, which means, not just knowing facts, but knowing basic spelling and grammar. People forget that kind of stuff these days.”
Some of the Reddit comments about Sealls:
But there was some racial tension in the Reddit thread praising Sealls, especially since one post complimented him as “articulate,” which can be interpreted as condescending for blacks. Others argued that the word was used to describe how Sealls is objectively a clearer speaker than most weather anchors. That entire discussion can be read here. The thread was eventually shut down from further comments, with a note from moderators, “Don’t be racist.”
WKRG reveled in the online love by posting their own story about Sealls’s newfound Internet fame. “It’s nearly impossible to make it to Reddit’s front page, unless you have something extraordinary,” News 5 digital content specialist J.B. Biunno said in the online story. “To make it to that top spot, for a meteorologist, it’s really unheard of.”
As of 3:30 p.m., Sealls’s routine hurricane update was fast approaching 1 million YouTube views.
YouTube comments are notorious for being poisonous and vitriolic. Under the Sealls video, a commenter said, “This is probably the nicest comment section I’ve seen in a while, I’m glad a meteorologist can bring us all together.”
UPDATE: WKRG continues to have fun with Sealls’s newfound viral fame. They awarded him a trophy, “Best Weatherman Ever!!!”