Blog Orloff

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AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL NATIONALLY BROADCAST METEOROLOGISTS

Posted on May 17th, 2009

Dear Nationally Broadcast Meteorologists,

I am writing in hopes that you will read my advice to improving your weather reports, seize upon it, and enact great change.

When you are in front of your giant weather maps, gesturing, indicating, and making claims, please do not continually stand in front of Detroit. Let me clarify: at least give Detroit a brief moment on the map, made visible to all of your viewers.

I realize that your body will always block viewers from seeing one part of the country or another, and I sense, from repeated broadcasts on the Weather Channel, FOX News, and CNN, that standing in front of Detroit, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama is a fairly comfortable and convenient place to be while doling out the country’s weather report. However, I have noticed something much more sinister going on. I have detected an undercurrent of prejudice against our particular Midwestern city: even when you are examining Midwestern weather patterns, you still manage to block Detroit, mostly with one sharp shoulder, essentially erasing us from national consciousness. Not even our weather is significant.

I understand that Detroit is not so important when you are relaying crucial information about the hurricane force winds across the Gulf of Mexico. Nor does it matter much when you report about the sunshine in Miami or the balmy highs recorded in the Carolinas. Yes, I am sure that the snow reports from those great and beautiful ski resorts out west are very important to thousands of people not located in Detroit. I am even willing to acknowledge that many may not find this city as interesting as New York or as beautiful as Washington D.C., two cities that get an awful lot of face time on your programs.

But please, step aside for just a moment and let us glimpse ourselves on your giant, colorful, sweeping maps. Yes, there we are. Directly above Toledo. Just east of Chicago. Unbelievably, we are north of Canada.

We would like to be included. We are part of the world’s weather patterns just as much as those other cities that photograph so well: Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas, some snowy little hamlet up in Vermont. Sometimes we do not even appear on your travel ticker. Perhaps you do not realize that we have two brand new airport terminals or that ocean-faring freighters routinely cruise up and down the Detroit River and into our Great Lakes. You rarely, if ever, send your brave weather reporters up here and photograph them standing knee deep in floods or leaning headstrong into typhoons. You reserve those on-location shots for other cities. Cities where a heavy snowfall can produce for your viewers those cliché montages of people shoveling out their cars, unrecognizable commuters bundled up in scarves, and weary, delayed travelers, sitting amongst their luggage at airports, waiting for the weather to clear and for a rescheduled flight out. These things, apparently, never happen in Detroit. Our rivers and tributaries never flood, banishing people from their homes, ravaging neighborhoods, destroying sewer, electric, and gas systems. Tornadoes never touch down in the middle of this city, except in 1997 when one funnel cloud swept up Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue, demolishing blocks of historic homes, shops, and businesses. Yes, a snowstorm in Miami could make for a cute story about sunbathing gone awry, but a devastating snowstorm in a place which expects frequent snow, but whose inadequate city services prevent it from plowing streets and sidewalks, repairing burst and frozen water mains, shoveling out fire hydrants, from basically insuring its one million citizens safety, makes for a far more compelling and more newsworthy story. For you, we cease to exist. Yet, when you exclude us from daily life, from even the mundane, we fall further and further into the periphery.

Lately, as you very well know, we have been in the news for other things. Certain things pertaining to the auto industry. We are not proud of this news. And we are not proud of the news we have made before that: a corrupt and ridiculous mayor, crime rates, the Lions. So, it would be nice to at least give us our weather. Any kind of news that makes us feel like we are actually part of this Union. News that does not remind us that we have been in a recession for years longer than the rest of the country. News that does not describe our low unemployment rate and high obesity index.

In these hard times, it would be nice if we could catch a glimpse of our metropolis on your map, and we do not want to see it while you raise your arm and point upwards to Minneapolis-St. Paul, lodging us into your armpit. However, I would like to commend you on not hacking off our upper peninsula, as so often happens on maps depicting the United States. It is so nice to gaze upon St. Ignace, Sault Ste. Marie, and Marquette, those lovely northern reminders of our French heritage. But, Detroit needs its place too. We need to be rewritten back into our country’s narrative, perhaps then the nation might understand our hardships, our terrible reputation, our ongoing reliance on the auto industry.

Please, take advantage of our unique weather patterns and report on us. Let us peek out from behind your blazer or blouse. Give us a place on your map. Let us re-enter a national dialogue on something other than the economy. Talk about us like you talk about San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale. Talk about us like you talk about the rest of the country, so that we can begin to feel like we are part of the rest of the country.