Admit it. Some part of you really digs the Weather Channel, with all its happy maps, local radar scans, gesturing experts, and elevator jazz. It has become a part of the television-driven United States, watched both actively and passively by millions of viewers. I’d consider the Weather Channel a cultural institution.
When I was weighing my options for college, meteorology was one of the majors I considered – along with philosophy, chemistry, Russian literature, and anything that looked compelling with my name next to it. But the closest I ever got to studying meteorology was taking an introductory geology course – pretty weak. While I never pursued broadcast meteorology as a career, the Weather Channel network has been part of my life since I was a kid. I can even credit my childhood obsession with the Weather Channel as the reason I possess a near-freakish knowledge of US geography.
Though it sounds silly, the Weather Channel has been like a servant-friend throughout the years. It’s been in the background while I’ve studied, cooked, slept, and probably (at some point) while I was having sex. Consulting the Weather Channel for conditions before a roadtrip, before a frisbee foray in the park, or before a wait at the bus stop has become normal. I once checked the weather before heading out to a Minnesota Twins home baseball game before being gently reminded by a friend that the Metrodome has a roof.
For a short period, I was living in an apartment without cable because I wanted to save money. When people asked if I missed anything about the 70+ stations I lacked, I said yes: I miss the Weather Channel. I got what I asked for when my rental company began to offer free cable, and now I am finally owning the title; I am indeed a Weather Channel junkie
Over time, I have come to reflect on what we Americans appreciate about on-demand weather information. We like the availability and consistency of information, and this appreciation was only fed by the explosion of the internet in the 1990s. From “Local on the 8s” to the www.weather.com website, we find an odd sort of reassurance in the inexact science of weather forecasting. Though we are rarely conscious of it, Americans tend to take stock in services that are available 24 hours a day. From credit card companies to convenience stores, we are almost comforted by just knowing someone is available – just in case we need something. Weather networks in other countries have never had the same success as The Weather Channel has in America; British and Latin American attempts have come and gone.
Evolving since its days as a struggling network in the early 1980s, the Weather Channel has become a commercial success. Frank Batten and Jeffrey Cruikshank, in conjunction with the network’s 20-year anniversary in 2002, chronicled the network’s history in a book. The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of a Media Phenomenon provides an overview of how the station handled early challenges and steadily grew its staff and resources to become a television staple. Reading like a corporate pride story, the book gives insights into what went on behind the scenes. From finance fumbles to anchor antics, the story of the Weather Channel is remarkably readable.
The online component of the Weather Channel, www.weather.com, is incredibly extensive, containing more information than a user can possible absorb. Both basic forecasts and almanac information are readily available. If you want to know the average high in Amarillo in April, it’s at your fingertips. This kind of archived information, when combined with up-to-the-minute conditions, makes the Weather Channel website more of a reference tool than just a time-and-temperature ticker. Users can customize the site to display the information most useful to them: pollen projections, UV danger ratings, travel tips, airport delays, and even sports-related snapshots. Weather data can be added to your desktop, sent to your email inbox, or even text-messaged to your cell phone.
If you’re a devoted Weather Channel fan, you can also read all about the on-camera meteorologists, page through their weather blogs, and even watch blooper videos compiled from years of TV footage. If you love Bill Keneely, Dave Schwartz, or Sharon Resultan, be sure to check out their biographies. You can ever request an autographed photo of your favorite on-air personality. I’ve done this, and while I took some ribbing from my co-workers when I displayed the framed picture, it was all in good-natured fun.
While you may not analyze your own Weather Channel penchant as much as I have, you probably have a soft spot (or at least an avid appreciation) for the network, its utter usefulness, and its constant presence. To ask yourself it you’re a true devotee, consider the following fun list.
You know you’re a weather channel junkie when:
· you have favourite on-camera meteorologists and refer to them as “OCM”s.
· you regularly compare the Weather Channel personalities to your local TV personalities.
· you are familiar with the catalogue of local forecast music.
· you watch for airport delays in cities you aren’t visiting.
· you love the hurricane experts…they’re like weather wizards!
· you have an autographed picture of your favourite meteorologist.
· you sleep better with the Weather Channel on in the background.
· you prefer the Weather Channel’s Jennifer Lopez to her more famous counterpart.
· you have received holiday or birthday gifts featuring the network logo.
· you recorded the 20th anniversary retrospective special in 2002.