Our website had one of its highest-traffic days on Thursday, if not the highest, propelled by Hurricane Matthew.
It wasn’t a little high -- the web traffic was nearly twice our really good days. Certainly, the deadly force of the storm draws fear and curiosity. It is mesmerizing in its epic 250-mile wide sweep, the width of Pennsylvania.
We have a good-sized property/casualty audience, so that explains some of the draw. But it’s weather. We love weather. When I was a reporter and editor at a Gannett newspaper, we went crazy for weather. Don’t forget that Gannett’s flagship paper is USA Today, which pioneered the full weather page with a color map in the 1980s, when color images were rare.
It didn’t matter the weather, either. Slow news days were the ideal conditions for a weather story. I was once told by an executive editor on a random nice day to have a reporter do a story on the most perfect day. He declared it was so, so it was.
When we had a legitimate weather story, we cleared decks, called people in and prepared our intensifiers. Will it be the biggest? The most? The worst?
Then there’s the politics. Matt Drudge tweeted that the storm intensity was being drummed up to strengthen the case for climate change. Specifically, he said, “The deplorables are wondering if the govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make an exaggerated point on climate.”
You can be a climate change doubter and Donald Trump supporter and still see that the federal government would have to do some serious data fraud to fool lots of private enterprise weather watchers.
And, really, data is preponderantly on the climate change side than not. There are some points to be made about the counterargument, but they are not overwhelming in scientific circles. No fraud is necessary here.
It is one thing to argue a point. We ought to do that. It’s healthy. But it is not good for the public debate and democracy as a whole if one side of the argument becomes shrill and, frankly, nuts.
When I was a vice president of a regional property/casualty association 10 to 15 years ago, carriers were starting to plan for climate change by changing tables and rates. And that field is not exactly teeming with liberal hippies.
Politicizing weather is nothing new. As long as there has been snow and cities, mayors have made and lost careers over how well city workers handled storms. And we know this is not the first hurricane to touch off a whirlwind of criticism.
This weekend, though, as we laugh about lunacy, blame whoever, maybe claim it was God’s wrath or just pretend the whole thing isn’t happening, let’s remember that real people are going through one of the worst days of their lives. Our nuttiness is petty in that context.
We hope the number of people left suffering by this hurricanes, but just like our politics and punditry these days, our storms have become unpredictably erratic.
Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at [email protected]
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