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Juno Snow Was Mostly a No-Show - Broadcasting & Cable

Juno Snow Was Mostly a No-Show

New York’s finest meteorologists try to earn back trust after ballyhooed blizzard skirts out to sea
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It was to be, if not the storm of the century, something pretty close. New York City had a blizzard bearing down on it, and local TV stations were in full-on battle mode. The night of Jan. 26, WCBS New York chief meteorologist LonnieQuinn said the lull in snowfall was short-lived and that the brutal blizzard was just gearing up. Elsewhere in town, WNYW showed a graphic of the top five snowstorms in New York City history, suggesting Juno might crack the list. All the local outlets were making full use of their snazziest storm graphics.

But when morning rolled around, WCBS showed a girl making a snow angel. “People are definitely enjoying this weather,” said Valerie Castro, rolling down the highway in the Mobile 2 vehicle.

While residents were relieved not to have to shovel 30 inches of snow, they registered familiar complaints about the media breathlessly hyping a storm. As weather is the key reason people watch local TV news, and meteorologists are a vital differentiator from one station to the next, the weather department denizens had some explaining to do the day after.

Irv Gikofsky, a 37-year veteran of New York TV weather, said he learned decades ago from a mentor to take the zings in stride. “He told me, ‘If you want to learn humility, be a weatherman,’” said the WPIX meteorologist.

None of the Big Four New York stations made their meteorologists available for comment, though all were understandably taxed in the wake of the extended coverage. Gikofsky stressed that, despite technological developments, weather is ultimately in MotherNature’s hands. “Even the computer system we rolled out last week has margins of error,” he said. “You’ll always be humbled by it.”

Weather Or Not

Meteorologists were emphatic that they would rather err on the side of caution than under- report a potential whopper. Lee Goldberg, WABC’s chief meteorologist, took to Facebook to explain how the “monster storm” epicenter shifted 50 miles off to sea. “We wanted to play on the side of caution,” he said.

Quinn was on CBS This Morning, explaining Mother Nature’s “wobble” to Charlie Rose. “If this thing had been 50 miles further to the west, you’d have 2 ½ feet on top of New York City,” he said.

While some stations will always hype weather to drive ratings, it’s not much of a long-term strategy. “You may get a viewership spike for a day or two,” said talent agent Rick Gevers, a former news director in Toledo, Ohio, and Grand Rapids, Mich. “Over time, I think the public figures it out.”

Multiple New York meteorologists said they would learn from the late January storm that really wasn’t. Goldberg’s Facebook video stirred up a batch of comments—some mocking the media, most applauding his candor. “Crazy that they feel they have to explain themselves because of all the public comments,” commented Christine Petrarca-Ruzzo. “They’re predicting the friggin weather! Rather be safe than sorry. No apologies necessary!”

MEREDITH USHERS IN EARNINGS SEASON

Meredith Corp. reported its Local Media Group had revenue of $157 million in the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 30, a record quarterly level for the group and a 50% increase over the previous year. Growth was spurred by the addition of KMOV St. Louis, KTVK Phoenix and WGGB Springfield (Mass.) to the station group, along with record political advertising and higher retransmission contributions.

While Meredith operates on a unique fiscal calendar, other broadcasters are prepping their fourth-quarter 2014 earnings reports. Among others, Gannett reports earnings Feb. 3; Twenty-First Century Fox, Feb. 4; Sinclair, Feb. 18; and Nexstar, Feb. 26.

Boosting Meredith’s next earnings report will be WALA Mobile (Ala.), which it acquired last December. “Our television expansion strategy is producing strong revenue and profit growth,” said Paul Karpowicz, Meredith Local Media Group president.

It was to be, if not the storm of the century, something pretty close. New York City had a blizzard bearing down on it, and local TV stations were in full-on battle mode. The night of Jan. 26, WCBS New York chief meteorologist LonnieQuinn said the lull in snowfall was short-lived and that the brutal blizzard was just gearing up. Elsewhere in town, WNYW showed a graphic of the top five snowstorms in New York City history, suggesting Juno might crack the list. All the local outlets were making full use of their snazziest storm graphics.

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