Breaking in for breaking weather? Plus an investigative boost at the Washington Post and NBC’s debate plans

Your Friday news roundup

June 21, 2019
Category: Newsletters

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here.

June 21, 2019

Welcome to the first day of summer as we start to really crank up the race for the 2020 presidency. This past week, President Donald Trump launched his re-election campaign and next week the Democrats begin their debates. The political talk will continue to heat up, but with this being the first day of summer and all, we start today with … weather.

Weathering a storm of criticism

Frankly, meteorologists don’t give a doppler what TV show is on. If lives are in danger, they’re breaking in.

It might be the hardest job a TV meteorologist has, way harder than predicting temperatures or reading barometers: deciding what to do about impending dangerous weather.

Whether it’s a severe thunderstorm or potential tornados or a looming hurricane, meteorologists must walk a fine line. They need to warn viewers about potential life-threatening catastrophes, but they don’t want to cry wolf over weather that doesn’t materialize and risk future warnings being ignored.

Recently, we’ve seen both sides of this issue. A meteorologist in Dayton, Ohio, snapped at viewers who complained he was breaking into an episode of “The Bachelorette” to warn about tornadoes. But a meteorologist in Springfield, Illinois, was fired when he criticized the station’s corporate owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, for making him use the term “Code Red,” which he felt over-hyped some storms.

The American Meteorological Society had its annual Conference on Broadcast Meteorology in San Diego, as Justin Ray wrote about for The Columbia Journalism Review, and this topic came up. The problem is there aren’t really any tried-and-true solutions other than this: Meteorologists, not corporate initiatives, have to be the ones making the call on when to put out take-cover warnings.

Paul Dellegatto, the chief meteorologist at Fox 13 in Tampa, Florida, said, “Our No. 1 responsibility is to keep people safe. My history is to just call it like I see it. Never in my brain do I think about over-hyping it. You don’t want people to get the sense of, ‘Oh, here he goes again.’ It’s just a matter of getting out accurate information.”

Dellegatto, who was at the conference in San Diego, said it’s always an easy call: If lives are in danger, you break into programming. He said it doesn’t matter if a tornado is heading toward downtown Tampa or a rural area far outside the city — if even one life is in jeopardy, it’s important to alert viewers.

He said it’s “part of the job” that people are going to criticize him for breaking into programming to report on a weather event that might not impact many of the people watching. Every time the station does break in, he said, it gets phone calls and emails.

“But those complaining would treat it differently if that same storm was headed for their home,” Dellegatto said.

Dellegatto and other meteorologists insist they don’t break into shows or games to feed their egos.

“I’m on TV every day,” Dellegatto said. “If I had my druthers, I’d rather have the break. … But my job is to make sure people are safe.”

A bad day for darkness …

The Washington Post announces that it’s hiring 10 more investigative positions in the newsroom.


Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron in 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Already one of the elite newspapers in the world, which happens to be doing some of the best work it’s ever done, The Washington Post is stepping up its game even more. The paper announced Thursday a major expansion of its investigative team, adding 10 staff positions to the newsroom.

The Post’s investigative unit will add five staffers — including a reporter and editor for fast-turnaround work, a reporter to work on long projects, a researcher and a public records specialist. The Post also will add investigative reporters to the sports, climate/environment and foreign sections. The foreign job likely will be based out of Europe.

In a statement, The Post’s executive editor Marty Baron said, “The Post has a long and distinguished history of groundbreaking investigative journalism. This expansion is very much in that tradition, and it accentuates one of our newsroom’s greatest assets.”

… including in Boston.

A unique grant will allow the Boston Globe to launch an investigative unit examining public education there.


The Boston Globe. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Boston Globe is creating a special investigative group that will focus on public education in Boston. Along with its own resources, the Globe will take advantage of a $600,000 grant from Boston’s Barr Foundation to hire and deploy a team of journalists and an editor, all of whom will work on the project for two years. The Globe will have complete editorial control over story selection, reporting and editing.

In a statement, Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory said, “Inequality of opportunity is one of the defining issues of our times, and our failure to give all kids the opportunity to get a quality public school education is where it all begins. This team is charged with probing where we’ve gone so wrong and what can be done to help make it right, all the while raising provocative questions that will lead to a community conversation.”

It’s debatable

As the Democratic debates near, NBC News releases coverage specifics.


NBC News Democratic debate team. From left to right: Jose Diaz-Balart, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. (Photo courtesy NBC News)

NBC has announced its plans for next week’s Democratic presidential primary debate coverage. The debates will be at 9 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday and Thursday in Miami. Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Jose Diaz-Balart will moderate the first hour each night. Holt will then return in the second hour with Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow.

In addition, Holt will anchor the “NBC Nightly News” all next week from Miami, whileGuthrie will co-anchor the “Today” show from Miami starting on Tuesday. NBC also will have a team of reporters — including Andrea Mitchell, Peter Alexander and Hallie Jackson — in Miami all week.

Starting Wednesday on Noticias Telemundo, “Un Nueva Dia” (7 a.m.), “Noticias Telemundo Noon” (12:30 p.m.) and “Nightly News” (6:30 p.m.) will broadcast live from Miami. And on MSNBC, Brian Williams and Chris Matthews will host pre- and post-debate coverage.

 

NYT announces new position, new hire

Sharon Pian Chan is joining The New York Times as vice president of philanthropy. This is a new position at the Times. In a memo, assistant managing editor Monica Drake wrote that Chan “will develop editorial initiatives to work in partnership with nonprofits, foundations and other organizations to support our broader mission of fostering independent journalism. … She will work with the newsroom leadership team to expand our fellowship and institute programs dedicated to training the next generation of journalists. She will also launch editorial startups with the support of outside partners.”

Chan joins the Times from The Seattle Times, where she was vice president of innovation, product and development. Poynter’s Kristen Hare wrote about some of Chan’s work at The Seattle Times last year.

Hot type

A list of great journalism and intriguing media.

Jerry Falwell Jr. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

Upcoming Poynter training:

Want to get this briefing in your inbox? Sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.