"We're in the news business. We deal in doom."
-- WNBC anchor Chuck Scarborough, in a surprising moment of candor during the weekend's Hurricane Irene coverage in New York City
Matt Zoller Seitz's piece on the ridiculousness of some of the hurricane coverage is spot-on. This is my favorite quote from it because it sums it all up flawlessly:
"Newspapers and Internet-only news organizations are guilty of hype, too, but TV news is a different animal, and its excesses are of a different order of magnitude. TV news is not supposed to be processed in bits and pieces. It's designed to keep you mesmerized for hours with an endless series of voluptuously frightening images and worst-case scenarios. It's Cassandra in a box."
The question isn't whether the networks and locals were somehow irresponsible in the amount of coverage they gave to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene and its strike along the coast; as predicted, the storm did very serious damage in some places and it's always best to hammer home to point that its potential dangers are not the kind of thing to simply be shrugged off. But the overall tone of the coverage, which is what Seitz is pillorying, was, as expected, deafeningly alarmist and over-the-top. Often needlessly so. And that brand of vaudevillian lunacy, in the long run, does more harm than good.