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Same Old, Same Old

Reported by Nancy - October 2, 2004 -

Normally I don't watch FNL on the weekend (5 weekdays is more than enough, thank you), but today (10/2) I covered for another Newshound. You won't be surprised if I report that the weekend version is just as abysmal as the weekday version.

When I first tuned in, at 4:48pm (EDT), they were in the middle of an ALERT about an impending explosion at Mt St Helen, with a banner announcing "Govt Raises Volcano Alert to Level 3 - Potential Threat to Life". Disembodied voices were talking over a live shot of the mountain. The voices turned out to be Greg Jarrett & Dari Alexander, interviewing James Lure (later identified as Director of the Global Volcano Project at the Smithsonian). Then Geraldo Rivera chimed in (also as a disembodied voice), announcing that he had come back from Mt St Helen because his daughters had events he wanted to go to. Rivera waxed poetic about the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helen's for a while, then there was an ad break.

After the ad break, at 4:59pm (EDT), Jarrett & Alexander did a phone interview with Mike Carr (volcano expert). Carr, like Lure, was calm & factual & very informative. Needing some hype, Alexander asked him if he could predict when Mt St Helen would explode. Carr's short & to-the-point answer ("I can't") didn't deter Alexander from following up by asking if he could predict how violent the explosion would be. Carr patiently explained that no one can predict these things. So Jarrett asked if he could "quantify" [comment: note how cleverly Jarrett didn't say "predict"] the likelihood that this would be a repeat of what happened in 1980. Carr patiently repeated his previous explanation. During this entire segment, there was video of the mountain.

At 5:34pm (EDT), there was yet another segment about Mt St Helen, with an interview of Steven O'Meara (also a volcano expert), with the same video of the mountain & some of the same questions (& answers).

FNL also repeated the ALERTs about Mt St Helen (complete with video of the mountain) at 5:12pm, 5:19pm & 5:30pm, & seemed likely to continue doing so until the thing actually explodes. Later on this evening, at 6:55pm (EDT), I happened to see live coverage of a press conference about Mt St Helen -- with Interior Secy Gale Norton, Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rep Brian Baird (D-WA) & staff from the USGS -- on CNN. MSNBC was also covering the press conference live. Fox was not.

Comment: Volcano alerts aren't nearly as visually interesting as hurricane alerts -- no uprooted palm trees, no debris flying through the air, no reporters being blown away by a gust of wind. Just a mountain. Sitting there. For a really long time. Shown from different angles. Just sitting there. With not much happening. But I guess they're a useful tool, right up there with "terror alerts", for trying to scare people silly. Plus it gives FNL staff the opportunity to use words like "catastrophe", "devastation", "violence", "frightening", & "explosive" repeatedly, & to comment endlessly about the 57 people "incinerated" in the 1980 explosion at Mt St Helen.