Avid news watcher and "consultant" Andrew Tyndall called ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee a "pornographer" on Friday because she spends all her time on television talking about the weather instead of using her weather segment to talk about climate change. What nerve she has for doing her job!
The AP wire story—"Weather porn? Storms take over evening news"—explores whether or not the media's recent uptick in weather talk is related to hype and a play for ratings rather than a renewed interest in science. (Hint: they conclude it's half-and-half.) Tyndall focused his half-baked opinion on Ginger Zee, whom you may remember delivered a glorious smackdown to a sexist jerk earlier this summer after he called her "the most ugly weather girl i.v seen on tv."
The story quotes Tyndall as saying that regular ol' weather stories are too lowbrow to warrant coverage by nightly news broadcasts, and that the media should focus on climate change instead of reporting on the effects of major storms.
Others use a more blunt term: weather porn. The extra time spent on these stories can't be explained by an increased frequency of or interest in bad weather, and they're rarely used in context of a discussion about climate change, Tyndall said.
"If Ginger Zee reported in the role of climatologist rather than meteorologist, I would praise ABC's 'World News Tonight's' decision as a daring intervention into a crucial national and global debate," he said. "Instead, she is more like a pornographer."
People love the weather. It's the reason The Vane exists, and why Slate, Mashable, and the Washington Post all have their own meteorologists and weather bloggers on their payroll, not to mention thousands of broadcast meteorologists employed by news stations around the country. Yes, of course the media hypes some weather events. It's enormously frustrating, but from a financial point of view, it pulls incredible ratings if they can position themselves in the center of coverage about a major snowstorm or an approaching hurricane. They do the same thing with big news and sports stories, as well.
Everyone is aware of the hype, and they deal with it accordingly. Last month, I conducted a survey of nearly 5,000 Gawker readers, and one of the most interesting results was about how readers perceive weather hype in the media. Even though 87% of respondents believe that the media hypes severe weather, another huge majority agrees that not all severe weather coverage is hype. Americans genuinely love talking about the weather—at least, it's small talk, and at most, the discussions can save lives. Weather events are real news, even if "intellectual elites" (as the CWG terms it) believe it's beneath the dignity of serious newscasts to cover.
If Tyndall wants to focus on a real news story, let's talk about his ridiculous comment about Zee. Female meteorologists are educated scientists who create forecasts and present them to thousands, if not millions, of people on a daily basis. Even with an outstanding level of education and achievements to their names, female meteorologists still bear the brunt of an incredible amount of sexist attitudes and sexual harassment from viewers. Words matter, and in addition to lambasting a scientist for doing her job, Tyndall's boneheaded statement about Zee plays into the poor treatment of female meteorologists by a subset of society that's stuck in the past.
As someone who claims to have watched the news every day for the past 27 years, Tyndall should be acutely aware of how women are still treated in this country. Ginger Zee, along with all of her fellow meteorologists, are scientists who bring the science of weather into the homes of millions of people on a daily basis. That's no small matter.