680 News Storm Centre Exposed - An Exclusive

SnowIt snowed last night. Not a lot, but enough to get the local media excited. 680 News, for example, opened their Storm Centre for the first time.

It was about six years ago that I first wondered aloud as to what opening their Storm Centre would entail.

I wonder what setting up the Storm Centre entails exactly. As far as I can tell, it's business as usual with more time devoted to the top story of the morning, our little snow storm. Media outlets like 680News thrive when their listeners in are in a state of fear. Listening to them you'd have thought we were all buried and trapped in our homes living off the food and drink we have stored away. In reality, it's not that bad. Really.

The Storm Centre guy back then was Scott Simpson. I had a chat with Scott Simpson and got an exclusive inside look at the 680 News Storm Centre. We'll call this "680 News Storm Centre Exposed", because that sounds a lot more exciting. The words below belong to Scott.

Setting up the storm centre basically entails somebody telling me, "Simpson, you're on standby for Storm Centre tomorrow." That means I try to get to bed early, but end up tossing and turning until 4:15am when I call the newsroom ... I say, "It's not even snowing. The Weather Network says we're only getting 5cm." They say "Well, it's hit Chicago and they've cancelled a ton of flights. Come on in, you're our man."

That's about it. I get in, I see if any schools are closed, I find out what's up at the airport, maybe call Gary Welsh from Toronto Transportation to see what gear they're sending out, load up the admin side of the web site, and climb on the news wheel ... There's no time to run back and forth into and out of the control room, so I sit at a desk (the proverbial "Storm Centre" which, internally, is dialed up as CHFINEWS, even though they haven't done CHFI news from the newsroom in ... erm ... well, I don't think they ever did. Legacy tech, natch.) and broadcast from there, getting up now and then for fluid management.

So I sit there at the desk, and every half hour they throw to me, I read a sponsor or two, and try to tell it like it is .... sometimes it's a brain-bending five-hour whirlwind of bus cancellations and school closures (how many Montessori schools *are* there in the GTA, and why can't they get their kids to class when it snows?!) though, thankfully, most days I end up saying "Well, there's no big storm here ... but if you're travelling by air, you're screwed." I would rather be the voice of "everything's fine, get out and live your lives!" than the voice of doom and gloom when there's nothing to freak out about. I don't want to get a reputation as Chicken Little. If anything, I downplay the severity of what's going on out of the fact that I don't drive.

I saw Bowling For Columbine and some other stuff that has convinced me that keeping listeners "in a state of fear" is a terrible thing to do. I also don't like "neighbourhoods in a state of shock" or "outraged residents" or such things. I have two rules: tell the truth, and never be boring. They rarely clash, because the truth well told is usually a really interesting story.

There you have it, a Toronto Mike exclusive. Since Scott's left, I think they've gone all "state of fear" on us. Now be afraid... very afraid. White substance has fallen from the heavens!


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Comments (7 - click here to join in!)

Mississauga Blogger

I think Scott is working for Rogers out east.

December 9, 2009 @ 9:23 AM

Wayner

With the advent of 24 hr news channels and all the morning news "shows" the weather gives them all something to talk and get excited about...I find it fascinating when BT starts at 5:30am during major storm day(s)and then the storm bypasses TO...they literally have nothing to say. It still bothers me when they say that you should stay home if the weather is bad - well most of us work and we have bosses who always make it into...this is not an option.

December 9, 2009 @ 11:38 AM

Martha

Just like the weather channel on tv, these people make weather the enemy.

LOOK!! It's a terrorist attack!!! OH, NO!!

Wait, its just Mother Nature at it again.

December 9, 2009 @ 12:20 PM

Andrew

Yeah... Scott left 680 and went to work the afternoon drive out east... not sure what he's doing now out there.

Cheers

December 9, 2009 @ 4:34 PM

Anon

Welcome to the wonderful world of radio broadcasting.

Not everything is as it seems.

December 11, 2009 @ 7:41 PM

Phil Evans

To be fair Mike, weather is a major story. I think `Storm Centre`status in a radio newsroom means, `Let`s focus on things that haver changed normal life.` And that includes traffic, and school closures (Montessori or not). It`s not about creating fear, it`s about reacting - and doing the right thing to mitigate fear. Certainly the right thing to do as a broadcaster is to make sure that people can go about their lives -not be scared to go about their lives.

December 13, 2009 @ 12:28 AM

Des McShane

What gets me is that 680 pay a guy to play the xylophone really fast whenever something happens. It's usually not worth listening to and more importantly, that guy should be allowed to slow down once in a while...DAT DAT DAT DAD DAD DAT DADDDT DAT DAT etc.

February 1, 2011 @ 3:36 PM

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