I’m not going to minimize the massive snowstorm (aka SNOWMAGEDDON) that hit the eastern seaboard. I also realize part of what I’m say has to be taken with some grains of road salt: I grew up in the Upper Midwest, where we plow our sedans through six-inch snowdrifts every morning to work or class without much thought.
But Snowmageddon frustrates me as a news event. It seems like national news organizations are filling a gaping news hole left by the shutdown of the federal government in D.C. with inane stories and boring snowfall video — even NPR, which I think does a good job of getting outside the news cycle and focusing on important issues rather than passing stories, has fallen victim.The reason this so frustrates me is that it doesn’t make for particularly great news stories: People shovel their sidewalks in New York? Some folks are making money by offering to shovel driveways? Doesn’t seem like news to me. (This is all one morning’s drive to work on NPR, by the way.)
What’s most frustrating to me as a northerner: it’s like news outlets rediscover snow the way a short-term memory loss patient rediscovers his left hand every 10 minutes. All of a sudden, when what happens in Minnesota reliably on a yearly basis happens to Washington, D.C., it’s headline news.
Again, I don’t minimize what happened in the Mid-Atlantic the last few weeks, but I’ve got news for the news business: Snow slows down the Midwest too. On Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day, Minnesota was hit with a massive snowstorm. Many families cancelled holiday plans, churches cancelled services, and traffic snarled as people tried to get out of town before the blizzard. Where was the national news media then? It may not be big news when it snows in Minnesota, but it did lead every local TV affiliate’s newscast that night — it clearly meant something to the people in the Upper Midwest. Why can’t that matter to the national news media too?