I have never seen television news presenters and reporters
so happy and comfortable as when they’re covering the
weather—the weather as news, I mean. All strain flies from
their faces; here is news pure and simple, with no hidden
political agendas, no freighted comments or compromises.
Not so many worries about absolute accuracy either. They
don’t have to be concerned about balance or pleasing this
constituency or that: all they have to do is repeat inane
incantatory phrases like “weather bomb!” and “wintry
blast!” (which, by the way, is always “creeping” up or down
the country—why creep? do blasts creep? I don’t think so.
But moving right along), while crossing live to each other
in a positive fever of meteorological anticipation. Here’s
reporter A, all oilskins and storm-plastered hair, on a
windswept beachfront with waves crashing across the road;
there’s reporter B in beanie and anorak shouting heroically
at us from some rugged clifftop or riverbank. This, surely,
is TV news heaven; from their point of view, it beats the
pants off politicians’ press conferences anyway. I can see a
future where network news, if it still exists at all, finally
acknowledges where its heart lies and reverses the current
pattern by putting the weather first and the rest of the news
later. Naturally, in the absence of genuine storms, it may be
necessary to talk up lesser events for the sake of dynamic
headlines. Your average downpour will become a “rain
bomb,” a sunny spell a “summery blast.” Duncan Garner
will analyze the polls for what people think the weather is
going to be, while Guyon Espiner monitors the temperature
in Parliament. As for what we used to call news, forget it.
Weather has everything the perfect bulletin needs: dramatic
actuality, thrilling audio, reporters in chunky stormwear,
conflict, grief, destruction and terrific entertainment value.
Beachfront to armchair, clifftop to couch, it meets deep
viewer needs. This was all foreseen by Don DeLillo in his
great 1984 novel White Noise, in which a character, seeing
a weather report on TV, has a meteorological epiphany.
“I realized weather was something I’d been looking for all
my life,” he says. “It brought me a sense of peace and
security I’d never experienced.” Later, he teaches
meteorology, and people come from miles around to hear
him. “I saw something in their eyes. A hunger, a compelling
need.” Don, you are so right. Everyone should read White
Noise. It’s a Don bomb.