Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coverage of Storm Was No Rush to Panic

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coverage of Storm Was No Rush to Panic

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

I was driving into the office as Hurricane Matthew slowly made its way toward Florida.

At this point, much of downtown was shut down. By the end of the day, the Times-Union building on the edge of the St. Johns River would be evacuated, with people scattering in all directions, continuing to work from all over town and beyond. But at this point, the newsroom was busy. Instead of taking time off, my co-workers were doing the opposite. They were preparing to work several long, chaotic days.

I turned on the radio, checking WOKV to see if there are any updates.

Rush Limbaugh was on the air. He was broadcasting from a studio in Los Angeles. He said they moved the show from Florida because of the storm. But as "an amateur hurricane tracker," he clearly questioned whether it was necessary.

"The local drive-bys are inciting all the panic," he said. "They're doing what they usually do. You can't go to Publix and find any bottled water, for example. It's been the case since yesterday. You see people in there staring at an empty shelf of water."

He explained that he didn't see this himself, because he doesn't actually go to Publix.

"I can't do these things anymore" he says. "But I have spies who tell me these things."

I turned off the radio shortly after this, about the time he started basically suggesting that the dire hurricane warnings were political, part of an orchestrated plan to promote a climate-change agenda.

Never mind that some of the strongest warnings about the storm came from Gov. Rick Scott, who called the storm "a monster" and told people a message that was echoed by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry: "You need to leave."

The hurricane didn't turn out to be as bad as we feared. We got lucky when it veered slightly to the east. But state and local officials were right to sound the alarms, to emphasize just how potentially dangerous this storm was.

I've certainly been critical of the governor in the past, but I was among those who "liked" his tweet that said: "We can rebuild homes. We can rebuild businesses. We cannot rebuild your life. #HurricaneMatthew."

As I tried to keep up with what was happening - after losing power and cell service, listening to the radio while playing games of "Racko" and "Up for Grabs" by lantern-light - I kept thinking about the idea that local media had been irresponsible in its Hurricane Matthew coverage.

This isn't about patting myself on the back. I comfortably rode out the storm in a house in Zone D. I wasn't working around the clock or sleeping on the floor of the city's emergency center. But some co-workers were. And obviously quite a few people at the TV stations were away from family, covering the storm.

I've poked fun at TV folks in the past, out in their team rain slickers during the storm. …

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