Have you ever noticed how, even before the snowflakes fall, news organizations are dumping several column inches of reporting about an impending storm?
Before becoming the Trib Nation manager, I was a general assignment reporter in the Chicago Tribune's Metro section. It often fell on me to write weather stories.
Admission: I loved it.
I was proud of it.
But how much is the right amount of coverage? When the Tribune's online ambassador @ColonelTribune spread the word Wednesday that Thursday would be "snowy, windy and cold. Up to 8 inches could fall in the city," along with a link to online coverage, there were a lot of re-tweets, some grumbling comments, and this representative question from a person on twitter:
Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/#!/scottkleinberg" target="_blank">@scottkleinberg Colonel Tribune on Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/#!/coloneltribune" target="_blank">@coloneltribune We're only supposed to get a few inches right? Why is everyone making such a big deal of it?
I can think of a couple of reasons why news organizations like the Chicago Tribune do it, and I'm interested in what you would add:
1. You've been warned. Snow is forecast to start falling Thursday morning, and the brunt could affect the evening rush. We would be failing in our duty to you if we didn't warn you in time to prepare. In case.
2. Trend bucked. It's been an unusually un-snowy winter. Suddenly, up to 8 inches of snow are predicted. That stands out from the trend.
3. Weather is cool. Seriously. The physics involved in moving that much water through multiple phase changes and over continental distances are immense. It's hard to predict, and amazing when it can be predicted. And when it hits, like the Blizzard of 2011 last year, man, is it a biiiig story.
4. Chicago politics. If you're from anywhere but here, this bullet point may seem odd. If you're from here, you're wondering why this wasn't the first item. Two days of heavy snowfall in January 1979 slowed the entire city for weeks. Then-Mayor Michael Bilandic lost his re-election the next month, which many attributed to frustrated snowbound city residents. Just before last year's blizzard, also before an election, Ald. Joe Moreno was renting four-wheelers. And this is Rahm's first snowstorm. #ChicagoIsWatchingRahm
5. You know you want the snow news. Admit it. We know it. Not just deep in our bones as journalists, but graphically and comparatively. Web metrics are fascinating things:
6. BONUS: We can include you. Tweet your snow photos tomorrow with the hashtag #snowntell, and you'll end up in our crowd-sourced photo gallery. (I hope this storm pans out!)
What do you think makes for a good weather story? Does it have to be useful? Well-written? Timely? Give us your weather-writing advice, pet peeves, or high-fives.
-- James Janega
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