During the massive storms in the DFW area tonight, TV stations WFAA ABC 8 and KXAS NBC 5, even in the midst of a time period when there were six active tornado warnings between Fort Worth, the Mid-Cities, and Dallas to points east, WFAA stayed with the airing of Dancing With The Stars and KXAS stuck with The Voice, only interrupting every now and then. During life and death situations in North Texas, these two stations chose to worry more about their ratings for these national shows than stick with “wall to wall” (pun intended) coverage of the dangerous storms in the area like KDFW FOX 4 and KTVT CBS 11.
Frankly, I think the GMs of these two stations should be fired first thing in the morning. They were more worried about making money and selling advertising than ensuring the safety of their viewers, and that is all but criminal and highly, highly irresponsible.
(During the storms last night, I even received a tweet from Birmingham that word had already reached there that instead of providing storm coverage in Dallas … they’d heard a nasty rumor about WFAA.)
After riding through eight tornado warnings while in Huntsville, Alabama on April 27, 2011, I gained a new perspective on the deadliness and power of tornadoes. I saw how 300,000 North Alabamians were left without electricity for seven days, and how more than 230 people in Alabama died because of the many, many storms. And I sat hunkered down in a basement in New Market, AL while one of the storms in Limestone and Madison counties went right over head.
Earlier this afternoon, I saw news coverage of more tornadoes happening live on TV in Oklahoma City. On live TV, a family of four emerged unscathed from their completely flattened home.
I have great respect for Pete Delkus and what he has done with his Twitter account at WFAA. When dangerous weather is close by, Pete is a tweeting. That’s great. (if you’re not following him right now, you should be. @wfaaweather.) (It’s 11:52 as I write this and Pete just tweeted that all of the storms have moved out of the DFW area.)
But tonight, when I went to find my trusted weatherman on TV, he was no where to be found, but Dancing With The Stars was running full screen with just a CG at the top left showing in red where tornadoes warnings were active. Across the bottom of the screen raced a crawl. I was astounded.
Scanning through the other stations to see if any other station had taken this same approach, I found Channel 11’s Larry Mowry locked on. Dan Henry on Channel 4 was doing the same. David Finfrock on Channel 5? Not there. In his place, The Voice. (Over on Orren Media’s site, Mike does point out that KXAS NBC did pre-empt the Biggest Loser entirely.)
For Pete’s Sake
I don’t think the decision to stick with regular programming was made by David or Pete. I hope like hell, in the midst of worrying about whether we were living or dying or in imminent danger, they were raising nine miles of Hell with someone at the station about their idiotic decisions. But I am appalled that the decision makers at these two stations would put the lives of their viewers at risk just to keep a live show on the air, when locals could be getting hurt or dying. And seriously, if there’s a tornado warning active, people are supposed to be headed for their safety spot in their home, not worrying about Kirstie Alley.
Tonight on Twitter, Pete even issued one tweet that said: “Been a difficult night trying to balance the most popular show on ABC with severe storm coverage. Thanks for your understanding.”
I don’t fault Pete nor David. But it seems to me that it’s clear that TV news has gone a little whack when they’re encouraging people to sit mindlessly in front of their TV sets watching dancing and singing when they should be headed for the closet or the bathroom with a mattress over their bodies.
Haven’t we learned anything about how dangerous tornadoes are in the spring of 2011?
Channel 8 and Channel 5 both have a very positive and storied history of community service in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They do great things at these stations and that’s what has made them such positive pillars in the area. But tonight, I think they took a hit.
To the GMs of WFAA and KXAS, you made a horrible decision tonight, and I hope no one lost their lives because of it. If it was up to me and you indeed made the decision to stick with normal programming, you’d be looking for a job at the WB in the morning. But alas, even they were on with severe weather coverage.
- Piedmont Oklahoma Tornado Caught on Film (VIDEO) (blippitt.com)
- Weather service: Mo. tornado had more than 1 vortex (boston.com)
- Radio stations chug along 24/7 in tornado-devastated Joplin (cnn.com)
- Deadly Mo. storm reminds Worcester of ’53 tornado (boston.com)
- The Tornado Epidemic Of April 2011 [VIDEO] (fastcompany.com)
- 124 Dead as More Tornadoes Head to Joplin, Mo. (abcnews.go.com)
- Weather service investigates Pennsylvania storm damage; tornadoes possible (pennlive.com)
- Killer Tornado Strikes Joplin Missouri (politicalpistachio.blogspot.com)
- Escape Gone Awry: Man Tries to Leave Joplin, Gets Caught in Tornado (newsfeed.time.com)
- By the Numbers: 2011 tornado season (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- VIDEOS: Killer Tornadoes Rip Through Oklahoma (themoderatevoice.com)
- How Tornadoes Gain Power (scientificamerican.com)
- “Joplin Tornado Toll Up To 116” and related posts (holycoast.blogspot.com)
- Living On The Edge Of Tornado Alley (webnerhouse.com)
- Belo Corp. Television Station WFAA-TV Wins 2010 Peabody (prnewswire.com)
- Can Tornado Prediction Be Improved? (nature.com)
- Deadliest Tornado in Modern Era Slashes Missouri (njwo.wordpress.com)