23 October 2019
When a tornado moved right through central Dallas Sunday night, almost every TV station was in wall-to-wall coverage. The tornado was visible in lightning flashes, and this was not a “possible tornado”. It was confirmed, on the ground, and doing damage.
Yet, Dallas station KXAS did not break into programming for some time, and it was not because their meteorologists were asleep. They were tracking the storm and had a live internet feed up. But, those watching the game and in the path of the storm had no idea a large tornado was headed their way.
That is why KXAS Apologised today.
Three points I will make.
- It will take years for that station to gain the trust of viewers back. I’ve seen this before and nothing can be more damaging to the reputation of a television station. All of those weather promos telling their audience that they can trust them to give them advance warning of dangerous weather were a waste.
- KXAS almost certainly had far far more calls Sunday complaining about the interruption (when they finally did break into the game) than those who said thanks.
- When people call complaining about their program being interrupted for severe weather (and believe me, the do in droves) most stations ignore it. They know that this information is far more important than a fictional sit-com or old rerun. It’s even more important than a live sporting event. So, you can call, but if the situation is serious, you are wasting your time. What happened in Dallas explains why.
Most meteorologists who work in TV hate to break into programming. It costs the station money, it leads to angry calls and emails, while everything else you were doing is put on the back burner until you are done. We do not do it lightly. If we can get the information across by a crawl on-screen or cover up a sporting event with a quick update between plays, then we try to do it that way, but if the weather is potentially deadly, we will go live. Dallas Sunday night is a perfect example of why that will not change.