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In the Aftermath of Journalistic Drama Queens

10/31/2012

Entry 10/31/2012 10:23:38 AM – Mentat 669

I find my looking back over the last week, with a sort of combination of smugness and disgust. Smugness in the fact that while Hurricane Sandy did it’s damage 300 miles (483 km) south and west of here, I could tell that by the pattern the storm was traveling it wasn’t going to do much of anything other than in the usual southern areas of the state (which is typical when you look back at the history of hurricanes that struck the area). Disgust in the fact that the meteorologists and news reporters for the big three stations (WPRI-12, WJAR-10 and WLNE-6) had sensationalized the news so much that it had caused too many of the locals to panic needlessly. I mean, sure it’s one thing to report the probability and the potentiality of problems that both Tropical Storms and Hurricanes can bring to both the coast as well as the low-lying areas of the state(s). But the way that they were making it, combined with the word Nor’easter (proper as it was) — using it locally did in fact cause an even bigger panic than usual. Hell, it was almost amusing listening to my aunt that had called a couple of days later (and three days before the storm was going to hit land) when she said to me that we’d be getting a blizzard in the process. While that might have been true of the Virginia and DC area, as all hurricanes turn counterclockwise (as it does in the northern hemisphere), this meant that we here in the northern states would be getting the warmer (and even tropical air) of the mid-Atlantic states, and simultaneously the mid-Atlantic would be getting the colder/arctic winds that we’d be getting for this time of year.

Instead, I simply told here that the temperatures were too warm for snow, and the path of the Hurricane (at the time) was continuing its way toward New Jersey as expected and reported by the NOAA.

By about the weekend, I simply gave up listening to the news. Local news continued to make such a big stink of the looming disaster in the making, and simply paid attention to what the NOAA was reporting without the local commentary. My landlord (and manager) made routine calls from around Friday through Sunday asking for status updates and checking to see if the checklist of things that he wanted me to do for the three properties here in my neck of the neighborhood had been taken care of.

Each time he called, I continued to stress to him to stop listening to both the local news (that he had watched from his iPhone) along with the news that he had been watching in the area (he’s currently on vacation in the New York area). I advised him that the news is no longer doing its job of reporting responsibly and is whipping the sheep in the area into a right, frightful panic. If he wanted to know what was going on with the storm, to tune into sights like the NOAA that are simply reporting the storm and trajectory allowing him to interpret what he saw in his own way (from the years of experience of living through such weather). I also told him that each of the projects that he had requested were done, and all that we could do here in the Tundras of New England was to take a typical “wait and see” approach to where the storm’s heading and what’s to be expected if the worst does in fact happen.

The thing is though, by Monday — the weather that I could see for my area (Providence) was nowhere where it should have been for a life and property threatening storm. With the exclusion of the occasional to routine gusts of wind, that this was going to be a simple rainstorm. While the local weather stations and the National Weather Service were reporting continued gusts of wind and rain through to Midnight, I didn’t see much rain and even less wind by 8 PM that evening. And even more amazing was the fact that the power — which is well known for going out in my area during a stiff breeze — didn’t once falter. Not a blink.

Tuesday morning there was still rain and reports showed that we’d continue to see rain (but little wind) over the next two days.

My mother and I headed out to do the bi-weekly laundry, and for a moment when we got to the local laundromat at the butt-crack of dawn thought that the owner wasn’t going to make it in. Turned out we showed up the same time he did, and he let us in turning on the televisions to the local news and weather channel, which was reporting non-stop on the aftermath.

While having morning coffee and between loads heading from the washer and dryer, the caffeine kicked in and I started catching some of the things being said on the television. The first that I caught was listening to some Connecticut Official (not sure if it were a mayor of the governor of the state… I’m guessing it was a Mayor), talking about how if there’s flood waters to “go to the highest portion of the house.”

After I picked up my jaw from the floor where it hit, I thought, “Umm, no. If you see flooding in your area, you get the hell out. If it looks too dangerous, only then do you look for the highest part of your house to escape it.” I couldn’t be sure whether or not the news had edited it for content, or whether the elected official was that stupid to say it…

The second, which got me thinking, was listening to a reporter in New York City talking about the flooding and how the cars had been “strewn” about the road because of the flood waters. For the next three sentences it became apparent that strewn was his word of the day as he used it several more times. He then wrapped it up talking about how the subway system was 180 years old and that they got flooded and how this was the worst storm ever because of that. He went on further to say, ‘this was the worst storm ever.’

Something told me he wasn’t quite right about that and so when I got home I did a little bit of research. First off, the subway system in New York City wasn’t 180 years old, but in fact only a small portion of it is 143 years old. The other is that friends reminded me when I talked with them about it later on that there was worse flooding that occurred with Doria in 1971, Beryl in 1994, and Bertha in 1996 were in fact worse. And let’s face it compared to Hurricane Sandy; Hurricanes Edna, Carol and the Great Hurricane were infinitely worse in the 20th century.

It makes me wonder as I sit here working on this journal entry; has news reporting truly sunk to even lower lows on fact checking and being responsible when reporting the news? I can’t but think that ‘yeah, it has.’ It’s one thing to report the news — particularly when it comes to the dangers that happen with Mother Nature in all her fury. But when the news seems to be a cascade between warning locals of the potentials of reporting the impending problems with a Hurricane, Tropical Storm, Blizzard, and so on… to double barreling it with news stories showing people panicking by making runs to the local hardware chains (like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace, etc.) and selling out Portable Generators and about the usual milk and bread runs (sell-outs) at the local supermarkets, isn’t that the line where responsible news reporting stops, and creating a panic begins?

I seem to remember some time after the Arizona Representative’s (Gabrielle Gifford‘s) shooting something about the how rhetoric was (partly or wholly) responsible for this shooting occurring and how journalists were going to be more responsible about such things in the future to prevent such calamity occurring. While this seems to be true as the only political rhetoric that seemed to be generated at the moment isn’t from the news sources at the moment, but in fact the politicians trying to get into office, I wonder… Is it going to take a death (or serious harm) due to stampede or panic to get News Sources and Reporters to stop with whipping people into a froth because of FUD and/or exaggerated (and often egregious) facts?

I could impart tons of Common Sense to this, but the thing that I’m learning more and more as I get older is that “Common Sense is neither common, nor sensical.” The only thing that I can impart though is, “stay to good judgment and knowing one’s limits”. Well that and keeping a level head the entire time.

Anyway, I’m off for a bit. I have some work that needs to be done. I’ll be back later on to talk about the rest of what’s going on.

[Last Edited: 10/31/2012 02:58:24 PM]

Well that particular project took less time than I thought it would… Two hours less time than I thought. But then again there’s only just so much you can do about painting wires and pipes on a wall without pouring paint onto them to make them a uniform white. Only problem with that approach is that you’ll get paint stalactites off of them (and that’s not what one wants to have happen with a wall that’s going to be used to display artwork). But I digress…

So in the last week while surviving the non-drama of Hurricane Sandy, I made the decision to join NaNoWriMo in the hopes of getting over the long-standing malaise of writer’s block. In the last three days, while I’ve had plenty of time to think of a story that I could possibly write, I haven’t had any bloody idea what I should give a go with. I thought about doing the sequel to Companion but it seems to be a cheat; not because I have parts of it written already, but because it’s something that I really need to do. Not to mention that it seems almost wrong given if I were to do the sequel there’s no point to the original on the site.

I thought about doing Symbiosis. It’s an original. It’s a draft I could re-write the story from scratch without any problem. After all the draft is taken from the perspective of the alien that ends up off-course from Earth, with a sub-set of the story ending up with the human. I could always turn the story around and do the opposite for the site. Still though, I did struggle at the point of getting to the under-ice base and couldn’t for the life of me choose a direction, in spite of the fact that I knew the end result from beginning to end. Yeah, that was definitely part of the writer’s block — at least for that story.

Hell, I could always choose something completely different out of my head. The only thing is… What?

In any case, it starts officially in about 8 hours, and given the choices, I might go with Romance or Science Fiction — my two modus operandi. Hell, I could always do a combination of the two, which I’ve done a couple of times. Better to sleep on it tonight and see what comes to light in the morning.

That’s about it for the time being. I think I’ll watch a couple of shows that I’ve become terribly behind with and then off to take over the universe in the only way I know how. On the bridge of the USS Huntress, as she patrols the various sectors of the United Federation of Planets. Yes, I’m off to play Star Trek Online for a bit before calling it night.

Until the next time.

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