Weathercaster terminations widespread

How chicken farming prepares for forecasting

Black Dog McFarland

Rye Reflections has learned of an agreement among New England television channels to eliminate television weathercasters.

It is apparently the latest in a series of austerity moves, triggered by the slow economy and sinking ad revenue. Rye Reflections was able to contact a spokesperson for the television broadcasters of New England, Ms. Althea Dewpot, who confirmed the coming change but who was not willing to name the date when television weather people will be history.

Ms. Dewpot justified the coming move this way: It costs the average television station more than $350,000 per year to employ weathercasters and provide the radar hookups and maps used for weather related programming. All this expenditure to give people a 60% chance of knowing what the weather will be 24 hours before it actually occurs, when in actuality all they need to do is wait 24 hours, and they will have 100% accuracy just by looking out the window.

Ms. Dewpot went on to explain that broadcasters, by agreeing to discontinue weather programming as a group, would eliminate any competitive advantage that any one station might acquire by continuing weather forecasts on its own.
Rye Reflections sent a reporter into the streets of nearby Portsmouth to find out which way the winds were blowing regarding the discontinuance of television weathercasters.

Our first subject was a Mr. Hoarry Frost. We came upon Mr. Frost as he was raking up the last remaining leaves of autumn. His white hair contrasted sharply with the dull look of the long fallen foliage. We informed Mr. Frost of the impending disappearance of television weathermen. His face turned white, and his eyes rolled back into his head. "Do you mean," he asked, "that I won't be able to eat my oatmeal at five in the morning with the company of Kevin Mannix?"

When your reporter answered in the affirmative Mr. Frost broke down in tears. "There's no reason to get up in the morning unless I can eat my oatmeal with Kevin."

Your reporter left Mr. Frost blubbering on the sidewalk and continued to search for interviewees. It didn’t take long to find a sweet little gray-haired lady who was walking her tiny dog. The dog was all dressed for the cold, with a woolen coat strapped over its back and under its belly.

The lady wore earmuffs and fluffy wool gloves. She identified herself as Mrs. Dampen Riddly.

Rye Reflections told her of the decision by television stations to do away with weathercasters on television.

A look of shock crossed Mrs. Riddly's face.

"How will I know how to dress Bernadette?" she asked. "Every morning I flip on Channel 9 and watch Mike Haddad or one of their other people. If it's going to be cold Bernadette wears her cold weather outfit which you see on her today. If it's going to rain, she wears her raincoat, and, of course, if they predict it's going to be sunny and bright, Bernadette wears her sun visor and sun glasses."

Your reporter did the obvious and asked Mrs. Riddly if she ever checked the weather by looking out the window or perhaps taking a look at a thermometer to measure the air temperature.

"Oh, no!" she replied, "I wouldn't trust myself to make a decision like that. Just looking out the window doesn't do it. What if one of those awful fronts comes through right at the mid-point of our walk? What if the temperature drops and it begins to hail? Oh, no, that's not something I could do."

Media objectivity was being sorely tested, as your reporter began to feel a little light-headed. It was time to move on.

We came upon a window washer who was setting up scaffolding on a tall building located in the center of town. Here, we thought, is a person who is certainly dependent upon accurate weather information.

"Hey there!" we called to a middle-aged man who was swinging rapidly from bar to bar on the scaffolding like a monkey after a ripe banana. "May we have a word with you?"

"Sorry," he yelled down to us. "No time to talk. Channel 5 says the wind is coming up just before noon, and I've got to get these windows done pronto.”
We wouldn't be denied. “Rye Reflections has just learned that all New England television stations are dropping their weathermen like hot coals. What do you think of that?" we asked.

Expletive! "It's absolutely necessary for me to know what kind of winds to expect. I can't do my job when I'm swinging around like a kite. Plus, nobody wants their windows washed the day before it rains! Whose bright idea is it to cut out weathermen?" he asked. As if to accentuate his thoughts, a sharp gust sent him scurrying for a good hand hold on the scaffolding. "See what I mean?" he roared.

We did see, and so we moved on down the street towards the harbor.

There we encountered an athletic-looking couple in their middle thirties. They were carrying two kayaks, seemingly bent on doing a little paddling about the harbor despite the rising breezes. They identified themselves as Betsy and Bentley Babson and seemed in a rush to put to sea.

When told of the coming removal of television weathermen from the airways, they were unfazed. "We do all our own forecasting," said Betsy, "and it is definitely the way to go. We don't have to rely on these overpaid pretty boys … and girls … to plan our days."

"Righto!" Bentley chimed in. "We have our barometer, our anemometer, our barograph, our thermometer, we’ve got all the stuff and you had better believe that we know how to use it."

Suddenly it began to sleet, and the Bentleys turned tail and headed away from the water.

Eagerly, your reporter pressed in.

"You’re not worried about a little sleet are you?" we asked. "You must have been expecting it, what with all your forecasting equipment and such?" We chuckled to ourselves, but the Bentleys were no longer in a mood to talk and scurried away, kayaks in hand.

Our attention was drawn to a young man carrying a snowboard. Although it was early in the winter, it appeared by his clothing that he was on his way to a day at the slopes. The fact that it was still sleeting seemed to add to his enthusiasm.

He told us that his name was Roger Slider and that indeed this was to be his first day on the slopes for this year.

He was unaware of the coming termination of television weathercasters, and told us that he was a Barry Burbank fan. He elaborated that he first followed Mr. Burbank when he was a little boy and Barry broadcast at Channel 6 in Portland. When Mr. Burbank moved to Channel 4 in Boston, Roger took his business there.

He was a young man with exceptional empathy. "I wonder what Mr. Burbank will do if he is laid off?" he mused. “Maybe he could move to Portsmouth and take up chicken farming.”

Rye Reflections wondered why a career in weather would provide a good background for chicken farming.

Roger had a quick answer. "Chickens are very susceptible to changes in the weather. It influences their laying habits, and of course on very cold days precautions have to be taken to keep them warm."

Your reporter began to have second thoughts about this particular interview.
"Also, chickens are prone to many diseases …"

His voice faded out of hearing as we hustled up the sidewalk towards our official Rye Reflections transportation. It was time to go to press. Besides, the sleet was beginning to accumulate in the neck of my jacket.

April, 2009