How can the media balance the public's need to stay informed during severe weather with the risk of overestimating potential damage? An imbalance could hurt news outlets' credibility in the face of future threats, harming a complacent, unprepared public.

This question arose again over the weekend, when Hurricane Irene loomed over much of the East Coast and dominated the airwaves and news websites. Journalists in different parts of the country responded differently, depending on their audiences and proximity to the storm.

While some of the differences in tone and volume of coverage were driven by location, some were driven by medium -- broadcast ratings and Web traffic can skyrocket during severe weather.

Here is a sample of the conversation about the coverage.