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You know them, you trust them
It's an unavoidable question wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma: How many Jeff Flock wannabes does America need to get drenched on national TV, with nylon slickers billowing as palm trees bend behind them?
Flock, of course, is the terrific reporter, one of CNN's initial hires and a basis of comparison on disaster journalism for nearly three decades. He's now at Fox Business Network but on the scene at both Harvey and Irma
Surely, there were anchors in his early days who earnestly cautioned him on-air to be safe. Or told viewers they were going to let Flock get inside to get dry but would talk to him again soon in a water-logged state. That's now a pro forma affectation, as one was reminded Sunday by watching coverage and by reading this New York Times piece questioning the practice.
Yet we were also reminded all weekend about the primacy of local news. If you lived in the Tampa Bay metro area, you were more than likely to stick with tried and true local reporters, especially weathercasters. Several residents, including journalists, told me their primary source of information was that tried-and-true cadre.
For example, there's Paul Dellegatto, chief meteorologist for WTVT-TV/DT FOX 13. His on-air and social media performance was smart, level-headed and reassuring.
For example, at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, came a Facebook posting that included these thoughts: "1) Tom Petty was right. 'The waiting is the hardest part'. After watching Irma's every move since she rolled of Africa last month, it really is time to get some answers on what her final move will be! Don't ya think?
"2) The big picture is pretty much unchanged. Don't mess around with this storm. Irma is a large and dangerous hurricane. The weather will deteriorate Sunday, with Sunday night being the time of peak storm intensity around central Florida.
"3) The long awaited turn to the northwest should commence later today. That shift will FINALLY provide some answers on the exact path Irma will take as it approaches Florida. The angle is the key, especially when it comes to storm surge flooding. The worst storm surge flooding always occurs to the right of point of landfall. So, the landfall location is critical."
Then, too, there was Denis Phillips of ABC's WFTS, who last night declared that most of the news was good but to be cautious.
"It will still be an AWFUL night. Hurricane force wind gusts are already impacting our Southern counties, and they're moving North. However, the risk of Cat 3, 4 or 5 winds are over. Irma WILL continue to weaken as long as she stays inland. (Which, she should)
"Hang in there tonight. When you lose power, you can watch our video streams or listen (old school) on the radio. It's going to be scary, but I think we can all agree, MUCH better than things looked 24 hours ago."
And, "We've got a long night. We've got a long week. And for some folks, they will lose much tonight. I have been so encouraged by the support, the positivity and the kindness of our community. Then again, it shouldn't surprise me. When things are at their worst, we are at our best. Just another thing I love about my home."
The local Tampa TV guys are solid and obviously could offer more time and details than the national folks on what was happening there. They were less concerned with Naples, Miami and the Keys. But, come to think of it, as they offered answers as best they could, there was a final unavoidable question that's left to speculation:
Is this all a bigger marketing boost for Columbia, whose slicker NBC's Al Roker was wearing Sunday, or North Face, the preferred brand of Anderson Cooper, who was rather soggy as CNN felt compelled to have him anchor a show in the rain.
Or maybe, just maybe, Arcteryx, the "high performance" outdoor line sported by Steve Harrigan of Fox News? As with cable hurricane coverage, apparel is wickedly competitive. The only sure thing is that our favorite TV reporters will be positioned outdoors, pelted by the elements since, as Tom Petty also said, "Well, I won't back down/No I won't back down."
Headline of the day
"We’re all Equif*cked" (TechCrunch)
As Irma was downgraded, coverage of natural disaster mixed with the coincidence that this Sept. 11, as Fox & Friends underscored early, making clear it (like its rivals) would be in lower Manhattan to remember that fateful day that began with a plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Meanwhile, in Tampa, omnipresent Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said "I think the gods were smiling on us and we missed a storm that could have devastated this city."
CNN'S New Day quickly detailed the ongoing peril of rising waters around and north of Jacksonville with co-host Chris Cuomo outdoors in Naples. "Storm surge is a very big deal," he said. "The fact it wasn't worse," he said about the apparent lack of storm-related deaths, "is amazing."
Morning Joe had Willie Geist and Kris Jansing co-hosting and proving that there are still a few forces greater than Donald Trump, putting aside the show's normal breakfast bashing to solidly cover Irma and reminding us of the awful destruction in the Caribbean. Oh, and there was Buckhorn again, repeating a mantra of, "This is when government matters."
Oh, take a look at the Daily Herald of St. Maarten. It's not the Washington Post or New York Times but gives a decent sense of the awful damage, including at least 10 dead on the French side of the island (the Dutch have the other half). French President Emmanuel Macron arrives there tomorrow.
John Oliver returns on HBO
Even if cable news was mercifully less Trump-centric than normal this morning, there was John Oliver's return from holiday last night. And he again showed some of the limits of traditional journalism with a devastating monologue based on clips showing Trump's rhetorical default position when he's really B.S'ing about something: announcing that everybody "will be really happy" with him down the road. It is amazing how often he's said it. (John Oliver)
A media diversion for Tuesday
"Apple Inc. on Tuesday will hold its most important product event in years, unveiling the newest iPhones, Apple Watch and Apple TV at its new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Investors and consumers around the world will tune in to see the latest features. Here’s what you need to know…." (The Wall Street Journal)
The little noticed fires out West
From the Billings Gazette this morning: "As of Sunday, the more than 130,000-acre Rice Ridge fire, burning in the densely forested mountains north of Ovando and east of Seeley Lake, was highest priority in the nation, out of 38 large, uncontained wildfires currently burning in the United States."
Who'll get Amazon's second headquarters?
The speculation is unceasing, with lots of media offering their analysis of who best fits the very public set of requirements announced last week. Recode now weighs in with its take, which concluded with Svenja Gudell, chief economist at real estate data firm Zillow, offering this short list: Austin, Denver and Chicago "because they have all the amenities of a big city, but they aren’t geographically constrained and have much cheaper housing than Seattle."
Guess how many video journalists are employed at the Washington Post? Try 60. And a bunch of them have been deployed to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with their Sunday coverage on various platforms a function of smart investment and hiring. (Poynter) It's nice to have a committed and very well-heeled owner like Jeff Bezos (as I was reminded while making several Amazon purchases last night).
If you wondered what Omarosa does …
Writing about Kirstjen Nielsen, a longtime John Kelly aide now joining him in the West Wing as the chief of staff's enforcer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush inform:
"She is also responsible for keeping Mr. Kelly’s no-fly list of aides he deems to be unfit to attend serious meetings, the most prominent of whom is Omarosa Manigault, the former Apprentice star with an ill-defined job and a penchant for dropping into meetings where she was not invited."
Non-hurricane magazine cover of the week
Sept. 15 Newsweek (yes, the name survives) offers "BEFORE TRUMP WAS PRESIDENT, ONLINE SEX VIDEOS, BILL CLINTON AND THE NAUGHTY '90S CHANGED AMERICA" by David Friend, a Vanity Fair editor (and friend, no pun intended). It's adapted from his book, out Tuesday, The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido.
Good reads if you missed
The non-Irma fare in recent days included New York Times' "Your Money" columnist Ron Lieber on what to do in the wake of the gigantic Equifax security breach; Andrew Ferguson on the late E.B White (his longtime Maine farm is up for sale) in the Weekly Standard; and the Wall Street Journal's Jo Craven McGinty on how unwanted phone calls are the No. 1 complaint to the FTC as "as long-distance gets cheaper, auto-dialing gets easier and scammers hide by faking telephone numbers."
Best lines of the weekend
It arguably came in New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo's chronicle of a free-spending, unchecked seven-year undercover operation on the tobacco black market by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It evolved into a giant slush fund for agents around the country and didn't go south until the new parent company of the legitimate business with which the ATF secretly partnered got suspicious and descended upon a Virginia warehouse.
"Company lawyers descended on the warehouse, seizing everything. A tobacco company had just raided the A.T.F."
Weekend update: The Iron Pigs of the Welles Park 8U fall baseball league played the Bulls both Saturday and Sunday, getting clobbered once, then losing a closer one yesterday. Eliot Warren, 8, went 2-4 and did well in his very first pitching performance. Brother Blair, 13, lost a tough 3-2 Saturday night soccer contest in Winnetka, Illinois, as the Chicago City Soccer Club U15 Blue team gave up a latst-minutegoal on a fancy turf field in a swank public park replete with indoor ice hockey rink, paddle tennis courts, a tennis center named after the late TV-market researcher A.C. Nielsen, and park-issue lacrosse balls scattered across one empty field. It's an homage to high property taxes.
Correction: An earlier version of this story got the name of Fox Business Network wrong. It has been corrected. We apologize for the error.