on hurricanes, hobos and hookers

If you’ve been thinking to yourself: Hey, it’s been far too long since I’ve seen a cable news correspondent standing outside in 150-mph winds for no reason, you’re not alone. But I bring good news – the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is here, and the forecasting team at Colorado State University is predicting at least 15 tropical storms, of which eight will turn into hurricanes.

Memo from the CNN news director, on The Arrival of Hurricane Season (yay!)

Forget about Obama. See ya, McCain. From now til October, this is what we’ll be all about – getting there long before a big storm hits, being there when it hits, and trying to hide our disappointment that it didn’t hit much, much harder.

Folks, it’s hard to believe Katrina was three whole years ago. Good times. We did such an amazing job covering that storm.

True, we got a few things wrong; mostly, the facts. We got the facts wrong. But we must never forget that facts are only one part of a story – the boring part. We did pretty well with the other parts, especially getting helicopter shots of fat people swimming in their underwear. We could fill a whole DVD with that kind of footage – and we did, as anyone who attended the staff Christmas party can attest.

But the bottom line is that we need to learn from our mistakes. Specifically, we need to make sure that if a Katrina-sized disaster happens again in 2008, we make the exact same mistakes. Because the ratings – wow!

I’m not saying there’s a downside to what happened in New Orleans, but we can’t ignore that the bar for storm coverage has been raised. In a perfect scenario every hurricane would result in widespread destruction, chronic looting and societal anarchy. But we aren’t lucky enough to live in Bangladesh. And so we will need to adapt to the reality that, until the memory of Katrina fades, viewers will no longer be content simply to see our correspondents blown sideways and battered by debris.

That’s why I’m instituting some changes for Hurricane Season 2008:

Last year, we billed ourselves as America’s Hurricane Headquarters. We need to jazz that up. I’m leaning toward Hurricanes R Us, but am also willing to hear arguments in favour of Winds of Death: They Blow For Thee.

The Weather Team
The term “meteorologist” is old and tired and difficult for me to spell. From now on our storm trackers shall be identified as WindWhisperers™. Also, I went to the courthouse this morning and officially changed the name of our chief WindWhisperer™ from Chad to Stormulon. Creates more of a mood.

The Lingo
Our viewers like to know the speed, course and maximum sustained winds of a hurricane, so they can shake their heads and say, “Them Missourians sure is boned.” But we need to bring drama to the techno-mumbo. That’s why I’m ordering the WindWhisperer™ to add at the end of each hurricane update: “And so, in conclusion, Stormulon says: RUN FOR YOUR PUNY HUMAN LIVES!”

Colleagues, it is said that comedy equals tragedy plus time. In my career, I’ve learned that TV news equals tragedy plus a camera crew.

Covering hurricanes is a noble journalistic tradition – for if we as TV correspondents don’t stand out in the middle of the storm for no reason other than to stand out in the middle of the storm, then who is going to stand out in the middle of the storm for no reason? Hobos? Possibly some intrepid hookers? That’s crazy. Most hookers don’t even have a satellite uplink.

You have my best wishes for a safe and destructive hurricane season.

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