The Media and the Snow

By | Category: Travel rumblings

As one who has been delayed quite substantially this year in my travels by February snow, April/May volcanic ash and snow twice this month (just in this country) let alone tube strikes, motorway pile-ups and roadworks, I got to thinking about how the snow has been treated by the media. Why? Because us travellers want and need information which changes quickly to reflect what is going on outside that will affect us. Do we get it? In a pig’s eye we do.
You don’t need me to tell you that there has been travel disruption due to the white stuff. You’ll have seen pictures of jack-knifed lorries, a Virgin plane sitting at Heathrow have landed but not being able to park at a gate and motorways with cars vehicles going nowhere. Criticism has been made of us being unprepared and countless people have said that in Alaska or Finland, they can deal with 100 foot of snow and everything is fine. It makes good headlines for newspapers which have the difficult task of trying to work out what their role is an internet society and it gives the rolling TV news channels like Sky and BBC something other than their usual boring diet of repetitive news stories.
Start with newspapers. The Mail on Sunday today says that BAA has given into the snow. (which sounds like meek surrender.) The Observer says there is anger as BA cancels fights and that there were scuffles at Heathrow. The Sunday Times has a bit of a cop-out story by saying that, in England, a record low of minus 26 degrees might be broken. Scotland on Sunday had the most interesting column that I’ve seen by Dani Garavelli on her losing interest in white Christmases and snow as a whole. (http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/sos-news-columnists/Dani-Garavelli-White-Christmas-nightmare.6665407.jp) Wales on Sunday talked of the reduced shop takings as people were unable to get to them. The Sunday Mirror had a picture of a snowman complete with ear protectors that some staff at Heathrow airport had built at the side of the airport. It was a question of reviewing the events rather than reporting them in real time.
Yesterday I saw every weather forecast on BBC news from 4.30am till 9.30am and the story that was told was almost the same at every bulletin. I was beginning to know the script word-by-word. Yet all I could see that changed was the image map of the country at 8am changed to 9am. Any changes that happened during those 5 hours or how the snow line altered wasn’t recorded. So what use was watching the weather forecast?
What of Sky and BBC News? This morning it has been a better coverage than yesterday when they awaited the snowfall that hit the south of England and then moved to the Midlands. Simon Calder of The Independent who appears on every TV channel these days when ever a travel story is around, popped up to point out that other countries have this same problem. Amsterdam has been badly hit this last week as has Germany (articles in Der Spiegel about how Germany has not handled the snow very well) and Switzerland. Nonetheless most pictures and stories came from the south whereas Birmingham got hit badly yesterday afternoon. Today the snowfall returns to the north east, the borders and Scotland. What coverage will we have then?
So if I can’t get changing news from these sources, try websites? They have been behind in their details and even Twitter is not as up-to-date as you’d like. The BBC local website has been lamentable about all but major highways and A roads. As for any other information I might as well guess. All our buses were suspended yesterday and you get directed to Facebook or Twitter. After the first bit of news about the cancellation there was no update saying when they restart when I stopped looking 4 hours later. So how about local radio? For 2 hours this morning I listened and got little more than an interview about a choral service and a brief news bulletin. On another station it was just music and chat.
It seems now-one is delivering a service I want. Am I alone in thinking that?

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