When you think of jobs that, as Rodney Dangerfield might put it, “Don’t get no respect,” what springs to mind? Dentists? Customer service professionals? Even public relations professionals have often been referred to as “Spin Doctors”. There’s another vocation I’d like to examine for a moment: The broadcast weather forecaster.
How often have you either heard someone say (or muttered to yourself): “How hard can that job be?” or “Only in baseball and TV weather can you be right 30% of the time and still keep your job.” Sound familiar? I would argue those are unfair statements, in particular when one considers the impact these trained professionals have on their stations and our lives.
If anyone ever doubted the importance of broadcast weather in general, one only has to consider the fact that more people tune in to local TV news for weather than for any other reason. Radio stations such as WWJ Newsradio 950 promote it steadily and consistently as “traffic and weather together on the 8’s.” And, of course, in 1982, the Weather Channel officially debuted, providing us with up to the minute meteorological information, 24-hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week – a wildly successful money maker for NBC Universal. Factoring in web and apps, the Weather Channel Companies bring in some $500 million annually.
This past week, the value of our local weather broadcasters, with experience and access to tremendous technology, in concert with municipal early warning systems saved lives in Dexter, Michigan. Fast moving, disastrous storms left only 26-minutes to notify area residents to take cover. They did and not a life was lost despite enormous devastation to infrastructure and utilities.
I would suggest, then, that the next time we see skies darkening ominously and say to ourselves, “Something doesn’t look right,” we appreciate those who let us know what’s happening and what we should do about it, with the push of a button or turn of a knob. As we put our trust and the well-being of our families in their hands, it is a responsibility I know they take quite seriously.