It happens in every market: the weather turns nasty, the weather team cuts in on prime time, and the phones in the newsroom light up with irritated viewers. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen says often, those cut-ins seem “like showboating and an opportunity to promote the station’s weather brand more than…a sincere effort at public service.”
Owen turned to Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI‘s news director Mike Oliveira, who defended his station’s coverage:
“Sometimes weather events affect only part of our large viewing area. If there’s a severe thunderstorm storm warning in Butler County, it might be sunny in Washington County. The weather alert may feel like a nuisance to some of our viewers, but we’re always going to err on the side of safety.
“We have an entire book of protocols for how to handle weather warnings on television, online and on social media. The severity of the threat and the content on air both play a role in the protocol. For example, when a show with a lot of on-air text like ‘Jeopardy!’ is on, we’ll switch from a warning map on air to a less-invasive crawl. When we’re in a prime-time drama, we try to cover up commercials instead of a key part of the show.”