By Arthur H. Gunther III
NEW YORK STATE — As this being written, a “blizzard” is clipping its way toward my section of the nation. “Blizzard” is a big word here, quite unlike in some other states. The new media loves the description because it pushes news, although if newspapers in particular had the staffs they used to, real news would be schools, government, sports and features. A “blizzard” proves convenient to fill a lonely front page.
The hope is that the storm, at present expected to dump 18-24 inches in high wind, will not take lives, harm anyone and be met with the commonsense more prevalent, perhaps, in yesteryear. Yet the hype of the last few days has had residents expecting the worst, as if we have never suffered a heavy, large snowfall.
Not many seasons ago, such storms were common here, and vehicles were ready with chains on tires, to ride on streets not cleared to the black. Schools closed if the buses, when there were any, could not get through. Businesses were open to the extent possible. Snow was part of winter, and the media made little of it, except if there was some paralysis, such as in the blizzard of 1888.
Yesterday, the stores were jammed with shoppers buying enough food and provisions for a week, when the storm should disrupt for two days only. But such is the panic fed by the hype, to fill a news-hole that should contain the who, what, where, when, why and how of the ordinary events, and the extraordinary, too.
Modern high-speed news delivery, the need to constantly update, to feed smart phones and tablets, encourages over-exertion of “news,” to make more of things than we should.
I pray the “blizzard” is less than expected, and the dangers of any storm cannot be made light of, especially for responders, but the first rule of delivering information is balance, and the second is completeness. There’s a lot of news out there that going unreported.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at email@example.com This essay may be reproduced.