WEB EXTRA: Severe Weather Handbook- We Interrupt Your Program for Weather…

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(WBRE/WYOU-TV)    Recently Chief Meteorologist Josh Hodell and News Director Rod Jackson sat to explain why we interrupt programming for severe weather.

 JOSH HODELL, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST “When we interrupt your program for severe weather, we get a lot of feedback and you have a lot of questions. So we thought we would hash through some of those questions right now. And this is our News Director, Rod Jackson. Rod, thanks for being here. So the biggest question that we get is why are we interrupting that programming?”

 ROD JACKSON, NEWS DIRECTOR “And the simple answer is not so simple, Josh. First off, we are licensed as a television station by the Federal Communications Commission to operate in the public interest and necessity. When you have a tornado warning, tornado watch, any kinda severe weather, that’s the public interest. That’s the public necessity. People need to know what’s happening with the weather. But we also at Eyewitness News have a moral obligation, we think, to keep people safe. So whenever the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, tornado watch, severe thunderstorm activity, which may turn into that type of a warning or a watch, we have an obligation we feel to go on the air, morally, to tell people what’s going on. To keep people safe. And that’s our number one priority when it comes to covering severe weather. To keep people safe.”

 JOSH HODELL, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST “So there is a connection between our FCC license and why we interrupt this programming?”

 ROD JACKSON, NEWS DIRECTOR “That’s right. I’ve worked in several states where there’s far more tornadic activity than we have here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I worked in Iowa. I worked in Kansas. You get tornado warnings almost on a daily basis. And there’s a responsibility and a frustration on a part of the viewer, we know, we have a responsibility to tell people what’s coming at them, so that if necessary, they can take cover. They can evacuate. They can call mom and dad or grandma and grandpa or your son or your daughter and say, ‘are you aware there is a tornado warning going on in your area?'”

 JOSH HODELL, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST “One of the bigger questions we get is, why you can’t break into the area that just has the warning? In this day and age of technology, especially with our cell phones being able to find our exact location, why can’t we broadcast to only the areas affected by the severe weather?”

  ROD JACKSON, NEWS DIRECTOR “Right, but remember that we are a broadcast station. And broadcast means you’re going everywhere. We don’t yet have the ability to geo-target a specific area with a specific certain type of newscast or webcast. Maybe coming down the road, but when we send out our signal it goes out over the air to anybody who doesn’t have a cable or a dish satellite. So everybody who lives in the area sees our coverage of severe weather coverage. Now, the thing to keep in mind that I tell people, and I especially learned this when I lived in Kansas, is that, yes, we’re interrupting your program to bring your our severe weather coverage, you live miles and miles away from where these warnings and watches are, but if the warning and watch was coming at you, wouldn’t you want to know what was going on over the objections of the person who lives 30 miles or 40 miles from you, who doesn’t live in the warning area?”

JOSH HODELL, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST “I pose that same question to a lot of people who make comments about our coverage. But sometimes they still get mad. They don’t want to hear it. What do you have to say to those folks?”

 ROD JACKSON, NEWS DIRECTOR “I say to them that we know you’re going to get mad, but our job is to keep people safe. And the simple fact is part of our responsibility is to inform and to keep people safe, and the only way we can do that is to break in. So, if we get a tornado warning or a watch that comes into our area, we will go on the air. We will interrupt regular programming. And we will stay on the air until the warning or the watch expires. ”

JOSH HODELL, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST “One of the other bigger questions we get is when we interrupting that programming, they want to know if they’ll be able to watch them later. Do we have a station policy with respect to that?”

  ROD JACKSON, NEWS DIRECTOR “The simple answer to that is no, in all likelihood it will not air at a later date. And the reason is because most of the time when those network programs are being interrupted, and invariably it seems to happen at nine or ten o’clock at night, that’s when the atmospherics, and you know this better than I do, that’s when the atmospherics boil up and we get a lot of these tornadoes, we’re taking in a live feed from the network. And we cannot record a live feed and then play it back at another time because, number one, we’re not prepared to interrupt and record that live feed. And then there are copyright and other trademark infringements that if we were to air it at another time zone then we’d run into all kinds of problems with the network. So, in all likelihood, the short answer is, and this happens all across the country, we’re sorry we interrupted your episode of NCIS: New Orleans, and no it most likely will not be replayed. We apologize, but again, our job is to keep people safe.”  


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