CNN's Anderson Cooper took this to a new extreme when he and colleagues stood by to watch a large Ramada Inn sign fall down in real time. He and a colleague excitedly uttered such Pulitzer-winning observations as "Wow, that sign is really twisting in the wind!"
Cooper and company ducked behind the building in anticipation that -- gasp -- the sign might blow over. Then -- surprise of surprises! -- the sign blew over.
You would've thought Cooper and company had witnessed the Battle of the Bulge, the assassination of JFK, or the marines storming Baghdad. "I've never seen anything like this before!" they exclaimed to each other.
What possible purpose does it serve to put these people in harm's way to watch a sign blow over in hurricane winds? TV lives for eye candy, and hurricanes causing damage is good eye candy, but it makes no sense to have the talent stand upwind of a giant falling object.
Oh, wait: it does make sense: in this world of personality journalism, CNN seeks to build the Anderson Cooper brand. So CNN replays this banal footage over and over again, showing us what a courageous guy Anderson Cooper is.
Even worse, they've got seasoned, professional reporters like Miles O'Brien seriously intoning after each report from the stormy field "Be careful out there." How can any intelligent reporter watch a colleague put himself in harm's way for no real purpose and then urge caution?
There is a distinction between being brave and being foolish. And surely there are more important stories, involving human beings with real losses -- not motel signs -- that should be reported. But CNN doesn't have that footage in the can yet -- and since no one died in this storm, human stories don't make good eye candy.
One of these days a chunk of flying debris will kill one of these intepid reporters, or one of their unknown crew members. Since the hurricane dance is such a common practice now, I think OSHA should step in and set standards. They should declare hurricane zones a workplace for idiotic TV reporters. They should require protective headgear. They should require that the crew take cover when the wind speed exceeds a certain level.
By the way, what happened to the Natalee Holloway story?