Real_Storm_Is_Not_Snowby Robert Gillis
Published in The Foxboro Reporter March, 2001

Well, once again the story began with the hype: Astronomical tides. Snowfall that just might be bigger than the blizzard of 78. Two, three, maybe four feet of snow. Have a winter survival kit in your car. Stay tuned for continuous coverage.

Once again the supermarket shelves were laid waste as people stocked up on survival supplies and hunkered down for the big snowstorm. Schools closed. Businesses closed or released employees early. Most people wisely stayed home. Snowplows were parked in lines by the side of the road, waiting …

Sure, the storm of March 5 was big, caused damage, and made a mess. Despite the media’s feverish and obvious wish for another blizzard of 78, it was, in the end, just another big snowstorm that disrupted our lives for a brief period.

Did it warrant the round-the-clock coverage that began nine hours before the thing even hit? No way.

Long before the first flakes fell, the news stations broadcasted constant coverage. We saw the same images of desolate highways, a few flakes, the same reporters reporting the same non-event, and repetition worthy of cable news. The message over nine hours? “We are ready for the storm. Stay home, it’s going to snow a lot.”

There were the reporters, in every town, being buffeted by wind and snow, asking the same inane cliché questions:

“What kind of groceries did you buy?”

“I see you bought a snow shovel.”

“Do you think you’ll see a lot of flooding here on the beach?”

“Are you mad that your flight to Florida was canceled?”

“Will the plows run all night?”

“Can we stay ahead of the storm?”

We had continuous updates from the bunker in Framingham, then more interviews with people (some liked the snow, some didn’t), updates from Logan Airport, and saw that folks were buying lots of shovels, rock salt, and groceries.

The media, as always, ignored the obvious: We live in New England. It snows in New England. It usually snows a lot. The level of news coverage for this storm was so intense, you’d think the snow had hit in July in Arizona.

At a press conference, Governor Celluci was asked if we were too prepared, if the kids could have gone to school Monday and the businesses could have stayed open.

The Governor correctly pointed out that weather forecasting, “is not exact science,” and explained that we learned our lesson during the Blizzard of 78, when so many people did go to school and work, only to be trapped later on the ride home. The plows couldn’t stay ahead of the storm. Today, we know better. In the end, it was better to err on the side of caution.

Fair enough. The decision to close schools and businesses Monday was the correct one, and one of the main reasons we were able to recover so quickly. There’s no shame in being over-prepared for a disaster that fails to materialize.

I have no problem with the media wanting to keep us informed; but they seemed to be trying to treat the storm as a major news event, and it simply wasn’t one.

Ultimately, what bothered me most was that in the midst of all the snow coverage, the news also briefly mentioned that there was another school shooting in California, one that some were calling the worst since Columbine.

At Santana High School in Santee California, at least 30 gunshots were fired, and a fifteen-year-old killed two students and wounded 14 others. According to CNN, “Police looked for answers on Tuesday to explain why threats from a boy they called “an angry young man” went unheeded before the 15-year-old high school freshman allegedly carried a gun to school and opened fire, killing two classmates.”

“He was telling us how he was going to bring a gun to school … but we thought he was joking,” one student said.

THAT was a storm warning. A clear alert there would be danger. But no one listened to that. This shooting was big news and sadly representative of a horrible trend of violence in this country, and a danger to everyone. This is a major problem that must be addressed now.

It was news — major news — and should have received far greater coverage.

What’s the matter with our media? In the end, while police in California try to figure how such a terrible thing could have happened, two kids lie dead and countless lives have been destroyed by senseless violence, back here the news broadcasts yet another cycle of the school cancellations, another picture of the same car that spun off the road, and an interview with some guy buying a shovel and some rock salt.

I just don’t understand. Where was the continuous coverage of the school shooting? Why no editorials about violence in the schools? Why no dialogues about how we’re going to stop this cycle of violence? Why no statement from the President?

The real story was that school out west. And unlike the melting snow here, that storm of violence is growing in intensity, and it’s headed this way. Will we be ready to stop the storm from striking? Can we stop this storm? Prevent it from happening at all?

I don’t know, but I think that the first step in answering that question is for the media to reevaluate its priorities. a school shooting deserves far greater coverage than yet another New England snowstorm.

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