The Washington Post’s excellent Capital Weather Gang blog had a post earlier this week about a new addition to the Birmingham, AL National Weather Service office. It seems that WFO Birmingham has added a high-quality setup for video recording. This has some private sector broadcasters worried that the NWS will be horning in on their business.
Let’s be honest: the NWS is hardly a digital juggernaut. Even if they wanted to, I don’t see the NWS doing live streams during severe weather events any time soon. But as times change, so too must the function of the NWS. The old model where the NWS generated products, but the media did most of the dissemination to the public is not suited to the 21st century (despite the fact that many NWS products are still in a 20th century paradigm). The public can easily connect directly with the NWS, and the nobody is served by hamstringing the NWS due to tradition.
The NWS has a mission to protect life and property. In a multimedia world, higher-quality weather briefings, interviews, and educational material advances that mission. If a broadcast meteorologist finds this disconcerting, they should seriously evaluate how much value they’re adding for their audience.