Weather: the lowest form of news

Here in D.C. this week, the big topic of conversation this week isn’t health-care reform, terrorism policy, or even Sarah Palin. It’s the fact that — heavens to Betsy — it’s snowing! Yes, the snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/snOMG/Snowtorious B.I.G./snowverkill is upon us, and in addition to government shutdowns and armed confrontations between snowball-fighting tweeters and the D.C. police, ...

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Here in D.C. this week, the big topic of conversation this week isn't health-care reform, terrorism policy, or even Sarah Palin. It's the fact that -- heavens to Betsy -- it's snowing!

Yes, the snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/snOMG/Snowtorious B.I.G./snowverkill is upon us, and in addition to government shutdowns and armed confrontations between snowball-fighting tweeters and the D.C. police, it also means the paper is full of weather stories!

I could just be bitter, having once spent a sweltering Jersey City afternoon pounding the pavement to ask pedestrians how they felt about it being so hot, but I've always had a thing against weather news. It generally tends to be somewhat less useful than panda news and less entertaining than commodities prices.

Here in D.C. this week, the big topic of conversation this week isn’t health-care reform, terrorism policy, or even Sarah Palin. It’s the fact that — heavens to Betsy — it’s snowing!

Yes, the snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/snOMG/Snowtorious B.I.G./snowverkill is upon us, and in addition to government shutdowns and armed confrontations between snowball-fighting tweeters and the D.C. police, it also means the paper is full of weather stories!

I could just be bitter, having once spent a sweltering Jersey City afternoon pounding the pavement to ask pedestrians how they felt about it being so hot, but I’ve always had a thing against weather news. It generally tends to be somewhat less useful than panda news and less entertaining than commodities prices.

I don’t mean to suggest that the snow isn’t a big deal, particularly in a city as unprepared for it as this one. I just don’t think there’s that much to say. There are very few things readers need to know about a coming snowstorm: When is it going to start? How many inches? What’s going to be closed?

This 1,400-word Washington Post feature, on the other hand, is a bit of stretch, packed with such informative insights from local officials as, "We will have to watch and monitor what [the weather] does Tuesday night and Wednesday morning." 

As if that weren’t enough, there’s an entire page packed with additional data, live-blogging and user-generated content. As I write this, the headline reads, "Snow has just begun to fall," helpfully confirming the data I just gathered from looking out the window.

I don’t mean to knock our parent company too much. Pretty much every media outlet devotes a vastly excessive amount of time to delivering weather information that anyone with an Internet connection can get in about three seconds without the histrionics. I would hope that TV networks, radio stations, and newspapers have just vastly overestimated the amount of interest people have in hearing weather. After all, everyone knows what happens when it snows: it’s cold and wet and inconvenient but we all generally get through it eventually. But maybe I’m an outlier and people really do have an insatiable appetite for precipitation information. 

When people talk to each other about the weather it’s generally because they’re just being polite and have nothing more interesting to discuss. What’s the excuse for weather news?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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