Did anyone notice?

Jeremy Aldrich -- December 17th, 2007

WHSV apparently writes their script well in advance of their newscast. For things that have already happened, that makes sense, but they also seem to do it with things that they expect to happen but haven’t happened yet. Case in point: Saturday night’s news at 6 (you can see video from the Dec. 15 broadcast on WHSV’s website) was all about the major storm that wasn’t happening. Here are some quotes:

“This major storm could cause a lot of problems within the next 24 hours.”(Does using the word “could” make this news?)

“This storm is bringing some pretty slick road conditions with it.” (followed immediately by a VDOT interview with a woman who said, “Right now everything is pretty clear.”)

“VDOT will be hitting the roads shortly to start spreading the salt.” (2 hours later, my wife and I were still out on the town with no salt, or moisture, on the roads)

“This winter storm could mean more disadvantages aside from treacherous road conditions…It’s hard to predict how long some of us will be without electricity.”(Any treachery out there? Any power outages that effected more than just isolated buildings?)

“With this winter storm expected to deal a major blow to the Valley, we have some important tips…” (Cutaway to a reporter standing outside in front of the studio, no precipitation falling.)

Maybe they should, you know, look over their scripts a few minutes before going on the air. It might also help to check weather.com, which correctly revised its forecast as conditions changed.

58 Responses to “Did anyone notice?”

  1. finnegan says:

    I noticed the same thing when I was perusing the news sites this morning.

    Part of it has to do with the nature of TV news. If the courthouse had caught fire an hour before the newscast, that would have been the lead story. But on slow news days (like today) the content is scant. Yet news organizations still have to fill the same number of minutes on air, or roughly the same number of pages in print. They have an obligation to advertisers to do so.

    The brief ice storm did make for some cool photo ops. There’s one in today’s paper, and a few on local blogs and on Flickr.

  2. Justin says:

    This is why I despise local news. So often so little is happening, they have to hype up everything. I know those guys have it rough trying to make something worth watching, but in the end, they come off looking like hacks.

    Instead of hyping stuff up so much, why don’t they do actual reporting on things going on around town. You know, like Hburg news does!

  3. Justin says:

    I think WHSV and the Daily News Record should try to cover some of the same material and give personality to some of the paper reporting. If there’s enough stuff to fill up a 10 page news paper, there’s enough to repeat for an half hour news show.

  4. Scott says:

    Apparently some people watch WHSV, but don’t actually open their front door to look at the weather. I talked to several people Saturday night who were talking about how bad the storm was or was going to be. Rather confusing when I kept looking outside and seeing no precipitation, no precipitation, and then finally a little rain.

  5. finnegan says:

    To be fair, news and blogs share a lot of the same information. Much of what gets posted on hburgnews features links to (and quotes from) local media stories. Sometimes bloggers react to reporter’s stories, and sometimes reporters follow bloggers’ leads. It’s like an Ouroboros.

  6. Justin says:

    A friend at work said 6,000 people around Fulk’s Run were without power.

  7. finnegan says:

    Interesting point, Scott.

    What was it Dylan said? I don’t need a weatherman to tell me which way the wind’s blowing…

  8. Victoria says:

    There are 6000 people around Fulks Run?

  9. cook says:

    Steve Martin’s local TV weatherman character in L.A. Story pretaped the weekend weather so he wouldn’t have to bother to come in on Saturday. Is that farfetched????

  10. Barb says:

    Victoria, the Fulks Run area is perhaps the largest geographic area in the county.

  11. David Miller says:

    Downtown was covered in ice. The sidewalks on my way home were very icy and it continued all night. Trees everywhere were down, along with our internet and power. I had a kiln lose power in the middle of the night and everything. That doesn’t change the lack of appropriate coverage (i’m taking your words for this one, I don’t ever watch the weather unless the ice caps are melting).

  12. Frank J Witt says:

    Dave, I take t then that you watch and I guess enjoy the weather every 10 minutes on HSV every morning? I loved it today while switching back and fro between Fox5 and HSV, the morning dude said “It’s time to weather again?” while putting his jacket on and then someone handed him his clicker to change the back screens. I think they could cut back on the weather alittle. But on my side of town as well, everything was iced up and we lost power for about 1 minute right past midnight.

    I guess what the blogger wants is to be fed the RIGHT info when he needs it. The problem is that the weather people have to GUESS as to what is going to happen.

    Remember everyone, this is weather, not math or geometry where you learn the outcome, you have to GUESS the outcome.

  13. Bubby says:

    I learned a new word – Ouroboros! (But I had to wait for the power to come back).

  14. Gxeremio says:

    I have no problem with meteorology being a lousy and questionable science. My problem was a news show that said nothing about actual news – how can they call it journalism? To run their half-assed stories even during a bad storm is dubious enough, but to run them in spite of not having bad weather is just ridiculous. Such antics reveal that our local news is, as one poster put it, an advertisement delivery system and not much more.

  15. Shannon says:

    Power went off and on several times in Massanutten on Saturday night and was out totally on Sunday from about 9:30am till well past midnight.

  16. Victoria says:


    I found that number interesting because I grew up in that area and never once thought the population could be that high. Counting Bergton, Criders, “The Gap,” Runions Creek, etc., I figured that general area is around 1500-2000. Does anyone have exact figures? Does Broadway count into the 6000? I’m not disagreeing or doubting, just genuinely interested in knowing.


  17. Thanh says:

    In defense for the news media, both TV and paper, they do cover a large area that encompasses several counties. Unlike reporting on a single event that takes place at a single location the weather can be very “weird” hitting isolated areas or leaving isolated areas untouched and hitting surrounding areas hard. I recall a rain storm a few months ago that hit the Park View area of Harrisonburg really hard, bringing down trees and such, but where I live a few blocks away everything looked “normal”.

    This weekend my power never went out, but several of my neighbor’s tree branches feel over his garage, over our fence, and into our yard because there was so much ice. A co-worker of mine who lives off Reservoir Street near City limits (just a few miles from me) had her power go out for several hours, as did another co-worker of mine who lives off 33 west out in the county near Pilgrim’s Pride. My fianace says that there was only wet roads and no ice out from McGaheysville to Elkton, while Harrisonburg had trees all iced up. And Massanutten had its power out for a while too.

    A lot of times while Harrisonburg gets rain, another co-worker of mine complains that his farm out near Grottoes didn’t get any rain. Sometimes we share the same “weather” sometimes we don’t.

    I’m not a meteorologist, but I don’t think the term microclimates apply to acute situations such as this, but that’s what I think of. I think the newscasters did a good job of reporting conditions where they saw it – and frankly they can’t be everywhere. We all have the ability to look out our window or step outside, assess the conditions around us and take heed to the newscasters recommendations or not.

  18. MAW says:

    I have a lot of gripes about WHSV, but now I’m mad at WSVA. Someone called Candid Comment about not getting any information from them during the storm. Karl Magenhoffer made a really snide remark about not being in charge of the power company and not knowing anymore than we do.

    I live out 33 West and our power went out about 12:30am Sunday and was back on when I got up again at 6:30am. When I called to report the outage, the recording told me it should be back on by 4:30am.

    Had my power been out all day on Sunday like it was in Keezletown, I would have only had my radio to keep up with what was going on. But apparently, WSVA would have been no help. I know the media has to have access to phone numbers that we don’t. What if I needed to know road conditions so I could go somewhere where they had power? Not everyone has cell phones and a lot of people loose their home phones when there’s no power. And when I step outside my door to check the weather, I don’t see much. Sure, I can see if there is any precipitation, but my road is bad when others aren’t. I can’t see 33 from my house.

    I think WSVA needs to step up when there’s bad weather on the weekends.

  19. Tim says:

    I think Finnegan hit on the main reason why this thread exists with his first post. When you live in a fairly prosperous region, that is large enough to have a local station, but not large enough to have celebrity politicians or sports stars, the media doesn’t have a lot to go with. However, they do have to justify their existence with some kind of broadcast and an “almost storm” was the best they had. Any sports fans can relate by thinking about ESPN’s redundant rehashing of every football game that happens after the World Series and before the beginning of the NBA season. Being off the air is not an option for a TV station so they covered what they had, if you’re sick of it, turn it off, they aren’t ever going to take on world hunger.

    At the same time, since when did we as Shen Valley residents need around the clock coverage to deal with a one day freeze/thaw storm? Especially on the weekend, when it doesn’t even effect most of our work schedules.

  20. MF says:


    Did anyone notice what deregulation has done to the radio industry? Everything that you are upset about at WSVA is a direct result of deregulation. Large corporations can buy up as many small radio stations as they want, then they can automate all those stations to the point where it becomes dirt cheap to keep the station running. The small independent stations like WSVA have to cut costs to stay competitive with the large conglomerates. Which means they can’t afford to have people that would know how to get that information out to the public on the weekends.

  21. Karl Magenhofer says:


    I grew up in a rural part of Maryland and our power went off nearly every significant storm. You might be shocked, but we never listened to the radio or called the radio station to find out why it happened, when it would be back on or anything else about our power. My mother (gasp) called the power company.

    Here’s what happens when there’s a power outage: Power customer calls the radio station, asks me if I know why the power is off and when it will come back on. The answer at that time is nope and nope. I call Dominion. The answering service says they’ll leave a message for the media folks to call me back. I get a call back some time later by the media person who says they’ll have to find out what’s happening and get back to me. In rather quick time they call back to say they really don’t know much and that crews are working on it. While all this is transpiring, numerous phone calls are coming in with the same questions of the first power customer. It’s futile and a waste of time to get information that can be safely assumed (power out due to weather, crews working on it).

    My power went off Saturday night. The only thought I had was “better call the power company.”

    Seriously, if I had come in on my one day off a week and reported a couple times that power would be restored in however many hours what real difference would that have made? There would still be people calling saying they didn’t hear the reports or disagreeing with the reports. As mentioned earlier, the area is widespread and estimates of power restoration are almost useless unless the loss of service will be significant. Did you call the TV station, the newspaper or the other radio stations in town? What did they say?

    Here’s a tip MAW…go to the Dominion website (before your power goes off) and get the media phone numbers. Call that number when your power goes off, tell them you’re with Hburg News and you’ll know everything that I could ever find out for you. That’s citizen journalism at its best!

  22. Karl, I heard your comments yesterday about the caller that critisized the station and I thought you were right on. What responsibilities do YOU have besides being safe? If you had been injured because you thought you “owed” it to the listeners, then they would probably call you a knucklehead or worse, for driving “when you should have known better”

    This seems to be the kind of “it’s not MY responsibikity” thinkning that has forced our school to raise “our” children becuase we can’t /won’t do it ourselves.

    Just my 2 cents worth anyway…so I’m sure someone here will tell me how wrong I am.

  23. MAW says:

    So everyone who has gathered together your emergency kits, you can throw out your battery operated radios. They are useless.

    And Karl, you responded to only one problem in my post. The power outage. I have never even thought about calling the radio station when my power goes out. As I said in my previous post, I call the power company.

    My concern is mainly with others. Not everyone is high tech.

  24. Gxeremio says:

    If WHSV and WSVA, which use public airwaves, aren’t interested in using those airwaves to serve the public interest, maybe the public should take the airwaves back. Thoughts?

  25. Frank J Witt says:

    Hey Jeremy, how is that going…if it is still an option. I read about it on this website but I don’t know the status. I think having numerous “local” people report from where they are all over the area would be much more helpful. Seems like people are willing to volunteer some time for the community they live in. I would have loved to send video of our flooded back yard Saturday night/Sunday morning, had I not been busy with the fireplace and keeping the icefrom stopping our fan system outside.

  26. Karl Magenhofer says:

    Gxeremio…not interested in serving the public? You know the amount of PSA, traffic alerts and countless other things both WSVA and TV3 do? I must have missed you while I was out with other station employees collecting toys for Toys for Tots a couple weekends ago. You must miss all the call in shows we have with local government officials. How about the candidate forums hosted by both the radio and TV? Thoughts?

    MAW, In the case of a real emergency we would have some coverage/information to help folks out. A couple thousand people without power for a couple hours is no emergency. You have a point with the road conditions and we were fortunate that they really were not very bad this past weekend.

    Curious why no one has mentioned other radio stations. Who had great coverage over the weekend with all the emergency info folks were looking for? I’d be interested in how they staffed it and set up their information network.

  27. Emmy says:

    A couple thousand people without power could very well be an emergency. My brother’s on a vent, I’d consider it an emergency if they have no power.

    I’m sure it is irritating to answer repeat phone calls when you don’t know the answer, but people do turn on the radio for a reason during situations like these. I understand where MAW is coming from.

  28. Frank J Witt says:

    Karl, you are in a no-win situation here.

    For all your station does and all you do…Thank you. From the PSA’s about Adopt-a-Platoon, Cell Phones for Soldiers and all the carwash fundraiser info you got out into the public for us, we surely appreciate it.

    Unfortunately, the positive you all do appears to be falling upon deaf ears.

    I wonder if it is better to be criticized than not to be heard at all.

  29. Bubby says:

    I plan to request that SVEC , and Rockingham County notify the local radio stations (including Public Radio) with information regarding the extent of power and utility outages. That lets me know if I need to dig a pit latrine, start capturing rainwater, or if we should just drive into Dave’s and hang out for a couple of hours.

  30. Emmy says:

    WSVA does a lot of great things for this town. But I think MAW’s point might have been that you can be polite when you say you don’t know anything, or you can be snarky.

  31. linz says:

    There needs to be clarification that yes, there was a storm with ice and power outages, but the point of the posting is that it didn’t start in the viewing area until at least eight or nine hours after the six o’clock news. I for one was amused watching the reports about ice and power outages in our area while looking out my window and seeing a non-threatening sky and dry roads outside and then some rain until bedtime. I guess there’s nothing like being forewarned! They could have kept the same reports, but changed the live reporter’s transition sentences just enough to let the viewers know that they were well aware that nothing was happening yet, but was expected to later. Instead it made them look sort of foolish. It wouldn’t have taken long to browse the script and tweak the language a little.

  32. linz says:

    “I must have missed you while I was out with other station employees collecting toys for Toys for Tots a couple weekends ago.”

    Karl – Although I don’t know you personally, from my impression of you, I’m very surprised at you being so judgemental of what Gxeremio does or doesn’t do for the community. I think if you actually knew, you’d be embarassed by your comments.

    And I don’t think you touting gathering a bunch of material crap from China so poor kids can know the real meaning of Christmas (getting material crap from China?) is an accomplishment worth holding over someone’s head. In fact, any value it did have is lost when you brag about it.

  33. Frank J Witt says:

    “I wonder if it is better to be criticized than not to be heard at all.”

    Apparently not !

  34. Karl Magenhofer says:

    Emmy, you’re right. Your brothers situation is an emergency and a serious situation. I have an argument, but I would lose just by getting into it. Thanks for the point, it certainly gives me something to think about.

  35. Gxeremio says:

    Karl, please be polite. It’s great you do Toys for Tots…but what does it have to do with this discussion? I appreciate the call-in shows with officials and candidate forums. Do you run those at a financial loss for your station? You run PSA’s. Is that out of the goodness of your heart, or FCC requirements? In any case, let’s keep this about the issue and not about individuals. I’m not trying to criticize you personally and would appreciate the same respect.

    I’m saying that WHSV and WSVA are licensed to use public airwaves to serve “public interest, convenience, and necessity”. Providing polite, timely responses to public queries – responses which could save the power company time and energy from fielding the same questions over and over – seems to fit that mandate. Alternately, if you truly can’t work out an arrangement to distribute that information, you can at least be polite to your listening (and non-listening) public. Do you disagree?

  36. Karl Magenhofer says:

    Linz, I’m not embarrassed and wouldn’t be. He was indicting our public service without knowing anything about it. I was not implying he did nothing for the community, simply implying he doesn’t seem to notice what we do.

  37. Emmy says:

    I’m guessing that the argument is that they should have a generator. They don’t and for a lot of different reasons. So, it is a big deal. Luckily they are on top priority for HEC is the event of an outage and since they live in the city it is less likely that they will lose power. No one should risk their life to bring the news, but if you are there, don’t make people be sorry they turned on the radio.

  38. finnegan says:

    Woah. Take it easy, folks.

    Personal attacks accomplish nothing here, except ruin people’s day.

    I’ve worked as a radio DJ during bad weather, and even though I’ve never worked there, I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out at Verstandig. The thing that sets WSVA apart from WHSV and the DNR is that the entire news “department” is basically one guy; Karl. Tim currently does afternoons, but for a while it was just Karl. So it’s understandable that Karl would take criticism of SVA news personally.

  39. linz says:

    Not to further “ruin people’s day,” by responding to finnegan’s comment, but if it’s going to be “understandable” for people to take things personally, why is Karl the only recipient of such a public pass? I think there was just as much if not more reason to take public criticism of a person personally than criticism of SVA.

  40. finnegan says:

    I intended for the “take it easy, folks” comment to be directed at everyone in general.

    I don’t think Karl gets a “public pass.” I was just explaining what some readers might not know — that the news staff at SVA is a fraction of the size of the staffs at TV3 and the DNR. It was in reference to MAW’s original comment about WSVA not reporting the outages on Sunday.

    I hate it when the comments get ugly, but it seems to happen every so often. I’m not blaming anyone for starting it, I’m just attempting to “mediate” before it gets really ugly, and people get really pissed off at each other.

  41. linz says:

    Ok, hackles are down, then. :-) Thanks for further explanation both from Karl and from finnegan.

  42. Emmy says:

    I didn’t mean to come off as being nasty, so I hope that I didn’t. I just think sometimes its important to remember that some people aren’t privy to the information that others are and so when they ask its because they want or need to know and just being polite is the best way to get through it. This is the ‘burg and here power outages are news. I don’t expect Karl to come in on his day off and report it because I guess it really isn’t that serious. However, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that someone responsible for reporting the news do so with respect to the feelings of the public. People with small children, elderly family members, or people on life support do think it is a big deal so brushing off concerns with snarky comments may not be the best way to handle it. But, I couldn’t do Karl’s job and I’m sure it must be very frustrating. I guess I just understand a little better because I’ve lived here my whole life and I understand how people here think.

  43. Kyle says:

    To an outsider looking in, all I see is a bunch of weenies who are unable or unwilling to make a decision on their own. The reason why morons like Boortz and Limbaugh exist is not because they make sense, but because people Americans are too intellectually lazy to think for themselves. We whine about how invasive the government has become, then when something goes wrong, the first thing that we do is demand that government do something.

    As for not having a generator for a family member that requires a ventilator…to me that’s just dumb. If your version of “plan B’ is to cross your fingers and hope the power never goes out…well, your in for a lot of misery and probably justifyably so. Similar to people who build homes in known flood plains, or at the base of hills known for mudslides, its difficult to feel sorry for their poor decision making. And of course these people are the first to blame anyone but themselves, and demand action from their “intrusive and inept” government.

    My god what a bunch of dependent, insecure, cowardly wussies Americans have become. If our forefathers were alive today they’d puke in disgust.

    Here’s an idea you can try during the next storm…….look out the nearest window at a tree or a bush.

    if its moving, its probably windy outside….
    If its wet, its probably raining….
    If you can’t see it, its probably foggy..
    if its white…its probably snowing…….
    And if its speckled? Its probably due to a low flying bird.

    During the next storm, call work and tell them you can’t come in, pour yourself an early Margherita and enjoy the day. No need to stress out about things you can’t control.

  44. Emmy says:

    Well Kyle, when you get a family member on a vent and realize what you’d have to do to use the generator, then come talk to me about it. Until then, you have no room to talk. They lost power once because a transformer blew and had to bag my brother until it came back on. That is their plan B. He’s bagged until power is restored or the ambulance comes and gets him and takes him to the hospital.

    I can make a decision about whether or not I should go out when there is ice. But, if it is my job to tell others what is going on, then I do it and I don’t complain (to them) when they ask. Its human nature to be afraid. As MAW mentioned, you used to buy batteries for flashlights and radios in the event of a power outage so that you had light and could find out what was going on. Apparently, that has changed. WSVA has a small staff and I don’t expect Karl to come in to report what we should already be able to know, but if he is there, then I would expect to tell what he knows and be polite even if it isn’t any more information than he had at his last cast. I’d expect the same out of TV3 or the DNR. You report what you have. Hell TV3 reports it before they have it! Hehe.

    Really all I’m trying to say is that all media outlets in this area need to know their audience. We aren’t stupid, but we think some things are news that perhaps people in other areas do not. To me, the ice was a big deal. To someone in Maine it was nothing. But, we don’t live in Maine.

  45. Barnabas says:

    To answer the original question, no, I didn’t notice.
    If I had noticed i wouldn’t have metioned it. We all make mistakes or rush our work at times. I know that when I’m at work and I have finished my tasks the last thing I like is for someone to come back and nit pick over how something was done. If my work gets the the point across and people understand what is meant to be gotten across then I don’t see the problem. If the style in which my job was performed does not meet your expectations then talk to me about it. If my work has put the public in danger or has publicly insulted someone then maybe there is a reason for pointing out the faults on a public forum.

  46. Kyle says:

    “Well Kyle, when you get a family member on a vent and realize what you’d have to do to use the generator, then come talk to me about it. Until then, you have no room to talk. They lost power once because a transformer blew and had to bag my brother until it came back on. That is their plan B. He’s bagged until power is restored or the ambulance comes and gets him and takes him to the hospital.”
    I do feel that I have room to talk becuase I too had a family member dependent on electronic medical equipment (grandmother). She also had a condition where she could not tolerate cold temperatures for very long and whe nyou live in Michigan this can be a big deal. I personally paid for a generator to be hooked up to her main electrical panel to power critical like her equipment, hot water heater and space heater (or air conditioner depending on the season). Its relatively easy to do and gave everyone some peace of mind.

    I still believe that people need to (but usually don’t) plan for extenuating circumstances especially if they have special needs. (And I dont’ mean duct tape and plastic for chemical attacks like the Bush administration so brilliantly recommended).

    We have given over our independence and ability to freely think to corporations, governments and technology. Not only is this dangerous to a democracy (topic for another post) but is made strikingly obvious during times of crisis.

    We have become so accustomed to the fairly constant stream of electrons entering our home that we panic when they cease, even if for just a few hours, and start blaming people like Karl and others for our own misplaced anxiety. That’s sad really.

    Of course, this would all be a moot point of we went solar! Have you called your congressman yet? :-)

  47. Emmy says:

    Well they looked into getting a generator and explored all the possibilities and it wasn’t feasible or practical.

    I’m not blaming Karl for anything. There is more I’d like to say but I’ve strayed too far off topic enough as it is so I’ll leave it alone.

  48. MAW says:

    First of all, I love WSVA. They make me smile, sometimes laugh hysterically, in the mornings when I need it most. I don’t listen on the weekends at all, unless there’s a good game on that isn’t on television. I get mad at people who call CC and complain about every little thing SVA does wrong. But I thought the caller had a legitimate complaint about not getting information from the station when there was no other way to get information. The thing that upset me the most, and surprised me as well, was Karl’s remarks to Bill after the call. Those remarks should have been made off air.

    And WSVA should be proud that quite a few citizens look to them first for information. I wouldn’t even consider trying to get info from KCY or all the other music stations.

    And my other question is, why would Karl have to come in on his day off? There has to be someone in the station on Sunday. Doesn’t there? I assume it doesn’t run on auto pilot.

    I guess I am just too concerned with and care too much about others, even the “stupid” people. I think of the elderly who are alone. I think of others who are alone. I don’t consider myself superior to anyone. I’m a single mom who knows what it’s like to need help doing things around the house that I don’t know how to do or can’t physically do myself and can’t afford to pay someone to do it for me and don’t like asking for help. Therefore, I do not own a generator!!!

  49. Scott Rogers says:

    MAW — you raise a great question, and one I’ve always wondered about. Is there someone in the station at WSVA on Sunday that could be reporting on these things, or is it on auto-pilot?

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