I Like To Watch...
Our world spun to a halt last week, and we couldn't stop watching as it did.
Lots of folks complain about television's weather excesses, but all you had to do was catch the last paragraph of Tim Cuprisin's column in the Journal/Sentinel the other day to see why they do what they do, and why there's so much of it:
"Channel 4 scored big in the wall-to-wall weather coverage that ran from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, easily winning most of the day, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research numbers. Most importantly, the snow day helped boost the number for the NBC affiliate's 10 p.m. newscast. Channel 4 held a commanding lead at 10, averaging 108,000 southeast Wisconsin households, a 20% share of TVs on at the time. Channel 12 was second with 82,000 households, a 15% share. Channel 6 had 73,000, a 13% share. Channel 58 had 53,000, a 10% share."
Why do tens of thousands of us tune in for hours on end to watch a story we can see just by looking out our window?
I'm guessing it has something to do with validation. We KNOW we're miserable. We just got in from shoveling the driveway, or digging a neighbor out of a snowbank. We struggled to get home from work--if, indeed, the plant was even open. And, just to make sure it's as bad as we thought it was, we have television to tell us that, yes, it truly sucks out there.
I think there's also a little schattenfreud involved--y'know, the German word that describes the bizarre comfort some of us find in the misery of others (there's an ode to this phenomena in the hit Broadway show "Avenue Q" which is coming to Milwaukee next month, but I digress). Some of us get off being in the comfort of our homes, curled up in front of the fire, watching other poor bastards trying to navigate a snowed-out stretch of interstate or a postal carrier with snow up to his/her nards trying to put junk mail in an apartment slot.
TV gets ripped all the time for the way it allegedly over-hypes weather, and Cuprisin himself took local stations to task for ignoring the rest of the world last week as the storm swirled around us. Then again, changing technologies, the abundance to viewing alternatives and the arrival of the Internet are forcing local t-v to be...more local. You want talking heads hashing over Super Tuesday results? That's why God paired remote and cable: MSNBC, CNN and Fox had the rest of the world covered. If you grew tired of the repetition that came with the local storm coverage, I think ABC Family was still airing "Family Matters." Tjhe paper? It can add pages, so a large story can get maximum coverage with room still left over for the rest of the planet. And, the web gives our friends at the Journal/Sentinel a chance to play in the snow, too: check out this really cool time lapse shot from the corner of Fourth and State outside the Bradley Center at the height of the storm.
And, if you needed a screen to validate what your eyes and your shovel-weary arms were already telling you, you had that option, too. From the looks of the numbers, a lot of you exercised it, which means you can expect more of the same as this winter slogs on.