dispatches: June 2010back | archive | current Share
28 JUNE 2010
Press vs. press: As a member of the dreaded media, a reporter in fact, I can't help but get annoyed when treated badly on the other side of the line. A new AP story on storm chasing makes us all sound like speeding idiots. Dude, I was not part of a "NASCAR-worthy sprint" to find an "EF2" (no one knows exactly what strength tornado they're looking for on any given chase). The story conveniently skips over the many, many chasers who do so safely and goes for every sensationalistic quote it can find. The story says: "Highways are increasingly clogged with storm chasers trying to beat each other in a risky race to capture the storms, and some have been killed." Um, we're not racing one another. And the three chasers it mentions who were killed at some vague point in the past 11 years, in a badly documented "fact"? I have never heard of any killed during a chase (would be glad to hear the facts on that point), though I have heard of perhaps that number dying in routine accidents while, say, driving home on a wet road - proving that the greatest dangers in chasing are probably the ones everyone faces on the road. I stand by my quote that the people who want to drive into the tornado might get killed, but they are not the majority of us. There's been a lot of chest-thumping about the dangers of storm chasers this year, but having been in one of those chaser traffic jams around an Oklahoma storm, I would say it's just a few bad apples who are making it worse - some of whom are locals who see shows like "Storm Chasers" on TV and assume anybody can drive up to a tornado safely, and who see the Oklahoma City TV stations and The Weather Channel doing live broadcasts of tornadic storms while specifying their exact locations on the air. Everybody needs to take a deep breath and target the problem - the driving lawbreakers, for instance (Sean Casey and the TIV, of "Storm Chasers" fame, did no favors for anybody when they were videotaped by many people driving recklessly during a chase). Even experienced chasers can get caught in a bad place or make a mistake, and yes, that's where some level of risk comes in. But most of us drive responsibly, chase because we love the weather (not the thrill), deliver warnings and documentation to the National Weather Service, and spend thousands of dollars each year in the little towns across the Plains. We are not the problem.
2 JUNE 2010