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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/24/2008

Weather Channel Cuts Earn Mixed Reviews

By Andrew Freedman

Word that NBC had fired a handful of on camera meteorologists at The Weather Channel and canceled the network's only climate change news program struck a nerve with many Capital Weather Gang readers, who commented in droves during the weekend in response to our breaking news story that was posted on Friday afternoon. Out of nearly 260 comments that were filed as of Sunday night, not a single one supported the decision to fire popular longtime weathercaster Dave Schwartz, whose colorful weather presentations had made him stand out from the crowd of talent on that station.

Keep reading for more on reader reaction to the Weather Channel firings...

As the online outpouring of criticism demonstrated, Schwartz has an innate ability to present complicated weather information in an entertaining manner that is too rare among national TV weather personalities. He was TWC's resident late night talk show host, with Craig Ferguson's whimsical nature and the late Tom Snyder's eagerness to converse with viewers.

In contrast to the opinions of Schwartz, the vast majority of those who commented said good riddance (conveyed along with a large dosage of vitriolic hatred) to the now defunct "Forecast Earth," which was the only weekly climate change news show on basic cable. I strongly disagree with the anti-Forecast Earth sentiments, although I am somewhat biased since I have a connection to the show - in the past I wrote freelance articles for the program's Web site.

Judging from the level of anger expressed against it in the comments section, one might get the idea that Forecast Earth was a ubiquitous presence on TWC. However, the show aired primarily during poorly viewed weekend time slots, with extremely brief segments interwoven during the week. Its footprint was tiny compared to the outcry against it from the far right corner of the political spectrum, which may have made it vulnerable to the budgetary hatchet.

Hopefully the decision to cancel Forecast Earth does not signify that NBC/TWC is back peddling on climate change coverage, but it was clearly a boneheaded PR strategy to send the TWC employees who covered climate issues packing during the middle of NBC's "Green Week." NBC has said TWC will continue to cover environmental issues, but provided no specific details about what form that may take.

Many of those who commented this weekend said that the mere presence of Forecast Earth on The Weather Channel's programming schedule was so offensive that it had caused them to switch the network off altogether.

"I stopped watching the Weather Channel when they strayed from hard science and started preaching from the Global Warming alter," wrote "Baseball Fan."

Another commenter, "rat race escapee," wrote that Forecast Earth had caused "millions of viewers" to change channels, and this was why it was canceled.

No one who commented, of course, substantiated their claims of Forecast Earth-related ratings declines with data showing whether TWC's viewership had significantly declined since Forecast Earth was first broadcast, or that ratings dropped whenever the program came on each week. I have yet to see any such evidence.

As so often happens in online forums, blind rage dominated the discussion rather than facts, most of it directed this time at the former host of Forecast Earth, Heidi Cullen.

The anger spewed at Cullen harkened back to a controversy from two years ago, when, in response to a blog posting of mine at the previous incarnation of CWG (CapitalWeather.com), Cullen wrote that TV meteorologists needed to be more aware of the science of climate change and communicate this science to their viewers, even if they hold political opinions on the issue that run contrary to the scientific data.

For this well justified view she was subjected to an onslaught of criticism from listeners of conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh and others, who alleged she was trying to rid the TV weather community of skepticism about climate science. Clearly, for some readers she is still a controversial figure.

In addition to the invective that was thrown at Cullen, a few readers offered suggestions for where TWC should head in the wake of the NBC merger. One in particular caught my attention. "The thing that bugs me the most about the Weather Channel these days is that its "Weather Channel Lite," wrote "xjones." "We need TWC2 (that's more like the old TWC) for the hardcore weather geeks. There's a larger core audience out there than they realize, I think."

In my view, the audience for a more 'geeked out' TWC is already flocking to Web sites such as CWG. Speaking of which, I do hope that many of you who logged in over the weekend will return for our comprehensive weather coverage. And yes, we cover climate change too.

By Andrew Freedman  | November 24, 2008; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Media, News & Notes  
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Comments

Mr. Freedman wrote, "... struck a nerve with many Capital Weather Gang readers ..."

That is not an accurate portrayal of what happened. You make it sound as if CWG has a huge following; when in truth, Drudge linked to you.

Didn't it seem just a little odd to get THAT many comments?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 24, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman wrote, "In my view, the audience for a more 'geeked out' TWC is already flocking to Web sites such as CWG. Speaking of which, I do hope that many of you who logged in over the weekend will return for our comprehensive weather coverage. And yes, we cover climate change too."

I too hope many Drudge readers will stick around for your excellent climate change coverage. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 24, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah. I forgot about Newsbusters. They linked to you also over the weekend.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 24, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I would agree with this:

"No one who commented, of course, substantiated their claims of Forecast Earth-related ratings declines with data showing whether TWC's viewership had significantly declined since Forecast Earth was first broadcast, or that ratings dropped whenever the program came on each week. I have yet to see any such evidence. "

However, given your standing in the media and also your relationship with TWC, you must surely be in a position to ferret out that ratings information.

The ratings couldn't have been that great if they were canceled, now could they?

But with regard to the FE footprint, I now tune it to TWC perhaps once every other day. Somehow, I guess it's just my luck to see an add for that junk just about every time. Granted, I don't keep a log, so can't "justify" my statement. Maybe you'll just assume I'm lying.

Posted by: JohnM7 | November 24, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman wrote, "No one who commented, of course, substantiated their claims of Forecast Earth-related ratings declines with data showing whether TWC's viewership had significantly declined since Forecast Earth was first broadcast, or that ratings dropped whenever the program came on each week. I have yet to see any such evidence."

The temptation to be sarcastic is very strong, but I shall resist.

Mr. Freedman are you suggesting that NBC has opted to cut a show which had good ratings? This must be some sort of new and clever business strategy.

It seems to me that if they cut it, it was because it was a ratings loser.

Mr. Q.

PS. Alaskan glaciers GROW for the first time in 250 years.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 24, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Jim in Blacksburg here:

Mr. Q and JohnM7 - you guys are missing the point of this post. Andrew was not talking about the ratings of the Forecast Earth show itself. Rather, he was pointing out the fact that many people indicated in comments they stopped watching TWC *entirely* merely because TWC aired Forecast Earth.

THAT is the statement which is a serious stretch, to say the least. Obviously, if people don't like Forecast Earth, they won't watch it. But for people to say that they are so "angered" by Forecast Earth that they stopped watching TWC altogether is, well, pretty ridiculous.

I actually liked some of the Forecast Earth segments. They got into stuff like green technology and other matters, many of which I found interesting but had little or nothing to do with climate change. I guess the posts in response to the TWC article just show, while there are some people who go overboard and are a bit crazy with climate change, there are an equal number of crazies in the anti-climate change category.

Posted by: jahutch | November 24, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I am very happy to see that Schwartz was fired. He was my least favorite Weather Channel forecaster by far.

Posted by: pennstater73 | November 24, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

jahutch wrote, "But for people to say that they are so "angered" by Forecast Earth that they stopped watching TWC altogether is, well, pretty ridiculous."

Not sure what you are trying to say. When the context of the preceding sentences is considered, it appears that you are trying to say that you think the people who said that were lying.

Why would you say/think that people are lying to you when they say they quit watching TWC because of their climate change stance? I quit watching it because of that.

We have way too many options and choices to patronize people and businesses that we do not approve of.

I have also quit patronizing movie theaters because of the stars outspoken position on politics. Yes, they have complete freedom of speech. And I have complete freedom on how I spend my money. And I choose to NOT give money to outspoken stars whose political views I do not share.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 24, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

jahutch

Then a journalist and TWC insider should also be able to tell us what TWC ratings have done over the last couple of years or so.

But just in case facts matter, here's his actual quote:

"No one who commented, of course, substantiated their claims of Forecast Earth-related ratings declines with data showing whether TWC's viewership had significantly declined since Forecast Earth was first broadcast, or that ratings dropped whenever the program came on each week. I have yet to see any such evidence."

Sounds like we're talking about both FE ratings and TWC ratings.

Do you know what the ratings figures are?

Posted by: JohnM7 | November 24, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

From the column by Cullen you cited:

"Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It's not a political statement...it's just an incorrect statement."

What I see here is not, "TV meteorologists [need] to be more aware of the science of climate change and communicate this science to their viewers, even if they hold political opinions on the issue that run contrary to the scientific data". What I see here is, "There is only one correct opinion to have on the subject, MY opinion, and if you disagree with me I'm going to personally see to it that you'll be blacklisted as a meterologist and muzzled".

To start a "debate" off by pompously claiming to be the only one holding the correct view is to shut down any and all dissent from it, which has been the goal of hectoring ecologists such as Gore, Hansen and Cullen from the start.

And stop hiding behind the "scientific data is conclusive" canard. It isn't:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/11/16/do1610.xml

Posted by: stahlhart | November 24, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman,

I think your comment suggesting that no one could possibly have stopped watching TWC because of "Forecast Earth" is highly ironic. Not only did I stop watching TWC for that reason, but I've almost entirely stopped reading your column for the same reason: a one-sided, know-it-all arrogance that jumped to a conclusion and now refuses to consider reasoned, scientific arguments to the contrary. (Yes, I did read your column today but only because it dealt with the TWC firings.)

In a private email exchange you and I had a year ago, I challenged you to read and respond to the excellent arguments against global warming presented by Dr. Roy W. Spencer at http://www.weatherquestions.com/Roy-Spencer-on-global-warming.htm. You promised to do so, but since I've been waiting for a year and have heard nothing from you despite multiple followups, I can only assume that you have decided to ignore me because you cannot refute Dr. Spencer.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Dr. Spencer, he is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has served as senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He has a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Michigan, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin. His website does a great job of examining the global warming debate in a balanced way.

Posted by: dwljr | November 24, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

say what? here is the first three posts---- They let Dave Schwartz go? Oh HECK. NO. I have deleted The Weather Channel from the TV lineup. I went into the Menu and hit "delete" on Channel 27. They shot themselves in the foot with that one. Not that I watched TWC much, but I will never watch it again now.

Ron Riley is retiring as of next Friday (so says DCRTV.com)... and now Dave Schwartz, perhaps the best TV meteorologist EVER, gets the boot? Darnit :(

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | November 21, 2008 5:49 PM

Well, I am really sorry to see Dave Schwartz go... He is the best! He made weather technology understandable and yet he was funny. Mr. Schwartz is also a great volunteer on the Atlanta charity scene.

Posted by: katylane | November 21, 2008 6:03 PM

Dave is the best. what are they thinking? remember Paul Kocin? i am so done with twc.

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | November 21, 2008 8:05 PM

just to point out twc changed years ago. every time i wanted to watch the current forcast, they would have some boring weather story show on. give me a break. i want weather not stories. kick Paul Kocin to the curb and now Dave Schwartz, PLEASE i like the fact that the xm/sirius merger kicked the nbc/twc out of the line up deserves them right.deve madison va

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | November 24, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freeman:

While I am not directly involved in this arguement, dwljr has brought up some good, legitimate points. I think you owe him a reply.....but that is up to you, of course.

Dr. Spencer is a brilliant man, and his conclusions simply cannot be ignored.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | November 24, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: if major online sites link to your web page, that's a sign you have a large internet following. I'm not following the logic in your first post.

Posted by: KBurchfiel | November 24, 2008 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I first heard about this Heidi Cullen quote after watching a online show called 'The Great Global Warming Scandal.' It wasn't referenced here but a link was provided in a story about Cullen. If interested try googling the title it might still be available.

Posted by: dking58 | November 24, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

so true and well put admin9. i bet the demise of this site will be the host site its self. i come here for the facts not propaganda. i will say it again cap gang. you guys lost alot of credibilty with your reckless endeavor, with the host of this site. it will be the end for you guys, with all this gore-ism crap, wake up.

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | November 24, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

admin9: While I can't agree with your manner of speech and some of the words you use, I have to say you DO make some good political and scientific points. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, we heard the same stuff we do today.....only in reverse. AS you note, there was supposed to be a coming "Ice Age", which in the Eastern U.S., the three brutally severe winters in a row (76-77, 77-78, and 78-79), actually had us almost believing for a while.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | November 24, 2008 8:42 PM | Report abuse

"dwljr": I do recall our email exchange a while back about Dr. Spencer's work. If you have an actual question now, rather than a blanket challenge to "refute" Dr. Spencer's work, feel free to ask it here and see what the readers think, or contact me via email again. I apologize for dropping the ball on your question before, but you reached me during the busiest time of the year in my graduate studies. Once I climbed out from underneath a mountain of work, I forgot to get back in touch.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | November 24, 2008 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Folks, a reminder to keep the discussion civil and to refrain from defamatory remarks and name-calling. During the weekend and again today there have been several comments that have crossed the line. Those comments have either been deleted or will soon be deleted.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | November 24, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

dwljr: Frank Wentz and company (otherwise known as Spencer and Christy's gadfly) already addressed Spencer's continuing misconceptions in Science: "How much rain will global warming bring?" Science 13 July 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5835, pp. 233 - 235
DOI: 10.1126/science.1140746

Plus, Dessler et al. have a new one out that shows Spencer to be wrong again. http://blogs.usatoday.com/weather/2008/11/water-vapor-a-m.html

Refuting Spencer is like shooting ducks on the water; unfairly easy.

Posted by: YoungJimmy | November 24, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

KBurchfiel wrote, "if major online sites link to your web page, that's a sign you have a large internet following. I'm not following the logic in your first post."

That simply isn't true. If one or more major online sites linked to a single article (which is what happened), that means they found the article interesting/noteworthy. Nothing more than that.

You don't honestly think Matt Drudge is a regular reader of CWG, do you? The last I heard, he lives in L.A.; doesn't he still? Why would he be a regular CWG reader?

More likely, he has a finely tuned RSS reader, like FeedDemon or Google Reader. Or, someone tipped him off to the article, knowing that he would be interested in it. Did you ever listen to his radio show when he did it? If you did, you would know Matt Drudge's view on global warming and you would know why he found the article interesting.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 24, 2008 11:48 PM | Report abuse

For those angry about the firing of the venerable, witty, and informative Dave Schwartz, I encourage you to comment and contribute to my new up-and-coming blog: www.savedaveschwartz.blogspot.com. Let's show The Weather Channel/NBC Universal the error of their ways.

Posted by: fzedlach | November 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

YoungJimmy,

You must not be very familiar with Dr. Spencer's work. The article that you linked to SUPPORTS Dr. Spencer's arguments.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 25, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q:

In your dreams. Spencer's interpretation of water vapor feedback is completely skewed to support his preconceptions.

Posted by: YoungJimmy | November 28, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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