When you think about the structure of local TV news broadcasts, it becomes clear that they regard the weather report as essentially they’re main draw — it’s endlessly teased and stashed at the end, so you have to keep staying tuned forever and ever to get what you want. And via Peter Suderman, Pew has the data to back this up. The weather is the only category of news that has broad-reaching appeal.
This is interesting to me because I have essentially no interest in weather news. Not because I’m so much more smart and substantive than everyone else, but because of technology. I have a widget that runs along the bottom of my Firefox window that tells me current conditions, the day’s forecast highs and lows, and a general prediction for the next two days. What’s more, I can look up the weather on my iPhone’s weather ap whenever I’m curious. So I have no real need for news coverage of the weather. And I suspect that in the future more and more people will express their intense interest in the weather the same way I do — with pervasive weather information that makes the weather report on the news obsolete. And when that happens, what happens to the local TV news? What happens to the radio stations with their incessant weather reports? Technology impacts the media in weird ways, with Craigslist having dealt a devastating blow to newspapers . . . could weather aps have a similar impact?
Meanwhile, you sometimes hear it said that cable news’ obsessive focus on celebrity scandals du jour reflects the genuine lowbrow preferences of the public. I’ve always been skeptical and this seems to me to bear that out. People could be lying, to be sure, but the public seems happy to fess up to not caring about international news and to being obsessed with the weather so I think maybe we should take folks at their word that they’re not that interested in celebrity gossip.