October 3, 2022

Good morning, everyone. I’m back after a week away, which included dodging Hurricane Ian here in Florida. Thanks to my Poynter colleagues for picking up the newsletter in my absence. Now, onto today’s report …

Covering the storm

Early last week, as projections had powerful Hurricane Ian headed straight for the Tampa Bay area, my wife and I evacuated our St. Petersburg, Florida, home to avoid the devastating storm.

To keep track of what was happening from our far-away hotel room, we occasionally tuned into CNN and The Weather Channel, but mostly, we did what most Florida residents do when a storm sets its eyes on the state. We turned to local news.

Newspapers, local TV and radio stations and, most of all, Florida’s meteorologists became our lifelines to the most important and accurate news. During every waking hour, not more than a half hour went by when we weren’t checking the Twitter feeds and Facebook accounts of Tampa Bay meteorologists Denis Phillips of Tampa Bay’s ABC Action News and Paul Dellegatto from Tampa Bay’s Fox 13. Both have been with their Florida stations since the 1990s. I had to recharge my phone constantly because of watching local newscasts from around the state.

Meanwhile, residents from other parts of the state turned to their trusted weather experts and local news outlets. Newspapers and TV stations throughout the state covered not only how Ian was impacting where the hurricane directly hit, but how the storm was affecting the rest of the state.

When people say journalism matters, that’s never more true than dealing with actual life and death matters like a major hurricane.

National networks such as CNN and The Weather Channel effectively told the country what was happening in Florida, but it was local journalism that informed those who were being most impacted by the storm.

More hurricane coverage

The storm has long moved away from Florida, but its impact will last for quite some time. Here’s a look at more outstanding journalism regarding Hurricane Ian:

The daily news

ABC has a new show debuting this week called “Alaska Daily.” Starring two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, the show is set at a fictional newspaper in Alaska.

Anchorage Daily News editor David Hulen and special projects editor Kyle Hopkins wrote about the new show and said the paper worked with those making it. They wrote, “The creators of the show talked to a number of ADN staff members about our work. They built a newsroom in some ways eerily similar to our own, complete with a snacks-and-puzzles table. (That was all before we did a remodel this year of our actual workplace.) They studied what we wear. We’ve tried to help them understand our work, and Alaska, as best we’ve been able. We have a lot of respect for what they do. At the end of the day, it’s their story to tell. We produce journalism at the Anchorage Daily News. They make TV about The Daily Alaskan.”

Anytime journalists watch a show or movie about journalism, we get very fussy if anything is even slightly off, and are always quick to point a finger and say, “That would never happen.” But, of course, fictional stories are going to take some liberties because they aren’t creating journalism; they’re creating entertainment. Hopefully audiences realize that a made-up story set in a newsroom is no more real than a TV show set in an emergency room or police precinct.

As Hulen and Hopkins wrote about the new ABC show (which also is being streamed on Hulu), “It’s not a documentary. But the idea is to help people, through the lens of a network drama, have a better understanding of local news and the people who produce it.”

Live from New York …

While we’re talking about TV, the 48th season of “Saturday Night Live” debuted over the weekend with actor Miles Teller as host and Kendrick Lamar as musical guest. I’m a big “SNL” fan and tend to give the show the benefit of the doubt even when others spew out the same cliche take of, “Oh, it’s not as good as it used to be,” even though they haven’t truly watched it in years.

Having said that, the season debut was disappointing. The highlight was Teller’s spot-on imitation of Peyton Manning in the cold opening, which poked fun at the show itself. But the other skits, including an underwhelming Weekend Update, were average at best.

The show needs to find its footing again after a major overhaul in the cast. Several of the show’s best performers — including Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Chris Redd, Kyle Mooney, Alex Moffat and Melissa Villasenor — are all gone. In addition, Cecily Strong, among the most versatile cast members in SNL history, isn’t on the show while she’s doing a play.

It still has plenty of stellar cast members to build around — most notably Kenan Thompson, Heidi Gardner and Bowen Yang. But host Miles Teller, while playing Peyton Manning, might have said it best when he joked, “This show’s in a rebuilding year for sure.”

The good news? After the rough season premiere, it can only get better. Right?

Oh, one more TV item

“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Trevor Noah announced last week that he is leaving as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” He has been hosting the show for seven years. He hasn’t announced exactly when he will depart, but he becomes the latest late-night TV show host to exit. Samantha Bee’s show on TBS was canceled and CBS’s James Corden will leave his show sometime next year.

Noah will be missed. As NPR’s Eric Deggans wrote, “Noah seemed to enjoy finding unexpected takes on issues, avoiding traditional U.S. partisanship while exploring deeply issues affecting people of color and expanding the show’s online footprint. The show incorporated his facility with accents and impressions; when he began recording the program from home during the pandemic lockdowns, they added jokes with graphic images superimposed on his face that have continued.”

The late-night environment is always shifting and it feels light years away from the golden age of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” In fact, we are in a different world than the days when Jay Leno and David Letterman were in their prime.

Some want to argue that TV numbers for late-night shows are dwindling because viewers are tired of monologues filled with partisan politics, but I don’t think that’s it. What has changed is viewing habits. Fewer people are watching traditional broadcast TV. And younger generations aren’t watching Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert the way older generations used to watch Carson or Leno or Letterman.

Instead of watching Fallon live while he does imitations with Ariana Grande or plays games with Daniel Kaluuya, viewers see those bits on social media or YouTube. Same with Colbert’s monologues and Corden’s Carpool Karaokes.

A litmus test about how networks feel about late night could be how CBS decides to handle Corden’s replacement — if it decides to replace him at all.

Media tidbits

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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