Covering the St. Louis winter

This winter, the most-talked-about local news is the weather. It seems like every few days we have another storm of some type.

This puts extra pressure on the local television stations who know that people are tuning in to see what it is going to do – and when.

Technology has helped weather coverage a great deal. All of the stations can now broadcast video of conditions around the area live as their reporters and photographers drive around.

This was valuable in this week’s storm, as different parts of the area were affected in different ways. While the snow was relatively light in Kirkwood, reporters in St. Charles County showed a different (and more snowy) picture there.

This is the kind of coverage that can be very valuable.

However, sometimes viewers feel it can go too far. Some were upset Feb. 4, when KSDK Channel 5 pre-empted “Jeopardy” for extended weather coverage. But given the danger of the storm for drivers, it probably was the right call.

All of our local stations have, for the most part, done a superb job keeping people informed, ranging from accurate forecasting to updates from the Missouri Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation on road conditions.

We are lucky to have several good on-air meteorologists. Here is my ranking of the top five, along with a few honorable mentions:

  1. Dave Murray (KTVI) is the dean of local weathercasters. He is the consummate professional who is passionate about weather as he keeps viewers informed in a way all can understand. He is willing to go out on a limb four times a year with seasonal forecasts. Then he is willing to grade himself on how accurate the forecast was. The only downside (and most likely not in his control) is the lack of forecast detail he provides during his second appearance in the 9 p.m. newscast. People who miss his first forecast (which occurs in the first half-hour) don’t get much from his second forecast.
  2. Mike Roberts (KSDK) is best described as smooth and soothing. His forecasts are understandable and delivered in a very conversational way. He clearly enjoys what he is doing, and that comes across to viewers.
  3. Chester Lampkin (KSDK) is a newcomer who has the potential to go a long way. He is extremely likable, but also knowledgeable. When he makes a mistake, such as mispronouncing a community, he is quick to correct it. Viewers can tell he wants to get it right. Lampkin clearly has a future in a major market or national role if he so chooses.
  4. Kristen Cornett (KMOV) is Channel 4’s best on-air meteorologist, even though she rarely appears in prime time. She comes across as a person who enjoys telling viewers about what’s coming. She can be light when the forecast is sunny and quite serious when the weather turns bad.
  5. Chris Higgins (KTVI) is the workhorse of weather at Channel 2. Viewers may find him in studio, outside, or driving through the snow to report on current conditions. He is always easy to understand – and, like all the others in the top five, comes across as competent and nice.

Honorable mentions for superior work go to:

  • Kent Ehrhardt (KMOV).
  • Angela Hutti (KTVI).
  • Cindy Preszler(KSDK).
  • Bree Smith (KSDK).
  • Glenn Zimmerman (KTVI).

Finally, we cannot forget John Fuller, one of the longest running on-air weather personalities in town. The venerable Fuller spent years on Channel 5, then moved to the Channel 2/11 operation. He has a consistent, no-nonsense style combined with a pleasant smile. Viewers just have to like him.

4-degree guarantee

KMOV should consider revamping its current “4-degree guarantee” program. The idea is if the forecast high temperature for the next day is within 4 degrees of the actual temperature, a charity gets $50. It’s a great idea. Still, it should be refined. After all, the forecast actually is a 9-degree guarantee, as the station considers its forecast correct if the temperature is exact, 4 degrees too high or 4 degrees too low. Because it is such a wide range, the station should consider an even higher donation if it misses the range. Perhaps instead of a charity getting nothing (as it does now), the station should fork over $100 for any it misses. This idea would have almost no impact on KMOV’s annual budget, but it potentially could have a big impact on a small charity that needs the money.

Weather bloopers

During all the recent bad weather befalling St. Louis, the news, weather and traffic people have had to spend hours and hours talking on live television. Naturally, this resulted in some bloopers. Here are a few, though none are intended as criticisms; given all the live coverage, mistakes naturally happen. It does not tarnish any of these people’s reputations in any way.

  • Channel 2’s Anthony Kiekow had a problem with grammar as he told viewers, “I’ll give you an idea of how much snow has fell.”
  • Channel 5’s Sara Dayley informed her audience that “Highway 70 is closed west of 70 due to an accident.”
  • Channel 4’s Katie Horner was showing her “futurecast” map of when snow would be falling. She said, “As we approach rush hour, notice the snow is really coming down.” Unfortunately, the map showed absolutely no snow over the St. Louis area at that time.
  • Even NBC’s Brian Williams was a bit off as he reported on the weather; he called the storm “a rare and unusual event.” Is that redundant, or repetitive?

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