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Monday, March 29, 2010

An open letter to WFMY Channel 2

Dear management and staff of WFMY:

I am a life-long viewer of WFMY. Yours is the station that I have most associated with well-produced television. Growing up our own television was always tuned to one of two channels: the local PBS affiliate for Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and Channel 2. Until the time I was 8 years old I didn't even know that there were other stations that did news, weather and sports. I will always fondly remember Lee Kindard's hosting of The Good Morning Show, Sandra Hughes is one of the all-time most classiest ladies in the history of anything (Lord willing I will finally get a chance to meet her someday) and whenever the weather has taken a turn for the worst or (even better) threatened snow that would cancel the schools, WFMY was there. I still remember people like Arlo Lassen (whatever happened to him anyway?) and whenever I see one of your many talented photojournalists out and about the urge comes over me even to this day to do that "number one" salute with the finger that y'all used to run at the end of each program.

I hope all of this makes it clear just how devoted I am to your station.

So perhaps you'll understand the sentiment when I say that tonight, somewhere in this great wide universe that God created, Charlie Harville is doing a huge facepalm in disbelief.

Why? Because you guys have desecrated the closest thing that the great state of North Carolina has to a High Holy Days.

I'm talking about what happened yesterday afternoon and evening with the severe weather that rolled through the Triad and surrounding area. Yes, there was a lot of damage and destruction. It couldn't be helped. And maybe y'all did what you thought was best to stem the devastation.

But that doesn't change the fact that you broke in before the second half of the Duke and Baylor game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and showed nothing but weather for the next several hours!

And in North Carolina, that is just about an unforgivable offense. If this had been the finals of the BASS Masters, or the World Series, or even the Super Bowl, this would have been different. But instead you chose to commit a basketball broadcasting blasphemy. HERE of all places! In a state whose motto should be "Play Basketball or Die!"

All the other stations in this area were doing severe weather alerts. The broadcasting footprints of any two of them covers the same area as your market. They had the latest weather updates... but only WFMY had college basketball and even better, Duke college basketball (they are going to the Final Four incidentally, having beaten Baylor 78 to 71... and I had to go to ESPN to find that out).

I'm not going to ask if this would have happened had it been UNC Chapel Hill playing to get into the Final Four. That would just open up another can of worms. Instead I shall leave that particular question as an exercise for the reader.

Look: I think that Eric Chilton, Leigh Brock, Ed Matthews and Grant Gilmore are doing a super excellent job so far as local weather goes. WFMY has always had, and to this day still has, one of the finest meteorological departments of any television station not just in this country, but the world. I have nothing but the utmost respect for your meteorological staff's skill, enthusiasm and terrific on-scream demeanor. And I will still gladly tune in to WFMY for much of my weather forecasting needs.

But this weekend, y'all messed up bigtime.

I'm not asking for y'all to apologize. Just please, bear it in mind next time something like this happens. Even amid something like this, there are lots of people who don't want to be confronted with all of the local stations broadcasting about it, but would rather have an avenue like college basketball in which to escape from their momentary fear. And I am very much sincere about this. There comes a point in any crisis situation when there is too much information and a person needs to be able to take a step back from it. That is what WFMY News 2 could have provided yesterday evening, that literally no other station in this market could have provided at that time.

Just think about what I've said, and consider these thoughts the next time an event like this happens.

Still a faithful viewer,

Chris Knight

EDIT 3:30 a.m. EST: WFMY News 2 has addressed its broadcasting decisions yesterday afternoon on its digtriad.com website, citing "hundreds of phone calls and emails from viewers asking why we stayed on the air for so long during the basketball game and prime time programming".

Here's the statement...

The reason is that it is our obligation to keep our viewers, safe during a dangerous situation. When there is a tornado warning, it means there is rotation in a thunderstorm which could reach the ground as a tornado. In this case, the warnings lead to three possible tornadoes and significant damage through our viewing area.

The Federal Communications Commission requires broadcast stations to deliver immediate emergency information during the duration of a warning. Once a warning is lifted, we will return you to regular program or full screen games as the case might be.

Replays of the primetime programs will be available online on Monday. They are usually updated within 24 hours of the initial broadcast of the show. You can find those shows including The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss on the CBS Video Player.

I don't mind saying this: WFMY's statement about this doesn't hold any water.

Maybe once upon a time that dog could hunt. But fercryin' out loud: WFMY has three digital channels now, not just one analog signal! If they sincerely believe they've a legal obligation to broadcast breaking weather information, fine... but WHY COULDN'T THEY SIMPLY SHUNT THE NCAA BASKETBALL BROADCAST TO DIGITAL CHANNEL 2-3?!? I mean, they have 2-3 set up, but they aren't using it for anything. Digital channel 2-2 is dedicated to 24 hour continuous weather, and I have to praise WFMY for that 'cuz it really is a convenience to more people than the station realizes.

But to not be prepared for a contingency like this? By not having a choice of options available to its viewers when WFMY not only can do so but already should have done so?

I don't know what's worse now: that WFMY didn't broadcast the Duke/Baylor game, or that it seems to have lacked the creativity that digital broadcasting technology not only allows but in fact demands.


Unknown said...

That statement from WFMY is such garbage. #1, they act like they are the only station in the market having a weather-gasm. #2, they could have easily met their FCC requirement by running crawls from their EAS equipment.

Drew said...

While #2 on your "garbage list" might be correct, WFMY is not MY48 or WCWG 20. WFMY has the staff, equipment, and viewers creating a higher responsibility to not simply meet obligations. For God's sake, people's houses were destroyed in High Point, some people will have to be in shelters. You're entitlement to a college basketball game ends when the first neighborhood is threatened by the first tornado. And it doesn't matter that the other TV stations had gone live too. There are some areas where only channel 2 comes in on this new digital system, so it stands to reason they need to cover the storms too. And to Mr. Knight, I believe they did put the clean game feed on 2-2, digital 523, as they clearly stated on the screen.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea, why don't you just leave them alone. They did there best and they saved lives. All you won't to do is whine about old news. So put your big boy pants on and move on. Gosh GROW UP!

Anonymous said...


Matt said...

This is the greatest letter ever. Basketball > safety of others. Only from you Chris. :)

Chris Knight said...

If this had been an isolated incident I would have kept quiet. But this was just more of a VERY annoying pattern not just from WFMY but from all the major broadcasters in this area so far as weather is concerned.

We had five or six (at least) major winter storms this season. And during the entire period that snow/freezing rain/whatever was falling, WFMY was running NON-STOP full-screen live coverage on its main channel.

Seriously: how many times must we have a meteorologist on screen telling us the obvious?!?

Viewers do NOT like this. They would rather have regular programming on, especially those who are perhaps unable to get out as much as they would like (and I know a few like this). Harping about the weather nonstop does get to be not only a big bore, but a psychologically depressing thing as well.

I'm NOT saying "put basketball before weather" here. If WFMY or any other channel has to break in with a tornado watch or (God forbid) a tornado warning, then I and any other rational person would expect them to break in with that. They've done it plenty of other times before when conditions warranted such action. But let's face it: in recent years the television stations have gone completely bonkers about live weather coverage.

Why are they doing this, when in years past a continuous crawl across the bottom of the screen and sporadic interruptions as needed sufficed plenty?


I bet your grammar sucks, too.

PapaBear007 said...

Preach it Chris

Unknown said...

I don't have HD (so no access to those channels) and not a huge sports fan. Glad I have a DVR to record shows at 2:05 & 3:05am

~Melinda said...

LOL @ your reply to "Anonymous"!

I have to agree with the non-stop coverage. Yes, it's raining - it's raining hard! We can look out the window and see this.
Oh no, snow! It's still snowing! The snow has stopped. Oops, now it's started again! Wow, I wouldn't have known if I wasn't watching TV! C'mon now.

I, too, remember the days of a crawler at the bottom of the screen or a momentary break in programming being enough for wise people to get out of harms way. Apparently, we now have to be reminded every 2 minutes to "take cover", "go to the basement", "stop the car and get in a ditch" - or otherwise get out of a storm.

Frankly, if you're still sitting there watching after being told that a tornado is headed straight for your house - you have bigger problems than the storm itself. :p