Ben Bailey: How and why we decide to interrupt programming for severe weather

By Ben Bailey - Chief Meteorologist

Nothing upsets me more than watching a game or show on TV and having it interrupted for "important information" that doesn't affect me.

I've been on both ends of this -- as a viewer and as a broadcaster. In fact, I remember vividly the most recent times I've had to break into programming. One of which we just refer to as the "This Is Us Incident." 

When we make the decision to interrupt our regular programming, we don't do it lightly. And we certainly don't do it for self-important reasons. I should reprint the emails and call logs from one of these events (it would be more heavily redacted than the Mueller Report).

There is nothing reassuring or supportive about that feedback. It's vile and overwhelmingly negative. So why would we put ourselves, and the viewers, through this seemingly avoidable torture test?

First, we have an obligation as a licensed broadcast station to serve the public interest. If we did not provide vital severe weather warnings, it could be the end of our license and our company. We take that responsibility with the gravity and respect that it deserves. 

But even more importantly, live television remains the best medium to get information to the most people in the fastest manner possible. When a tornado is on the ground or even indicated by radar, a tweet or a Facebook post doesn't cut it.

The situation is changing by the minute and people in the storm's path need to see where it is and where it's headed. That includes those who don't have smart phones. We can support this with additional information on our website and mobile apps. Even with all the advances in technology, that big screen on your wall is still the best lifesaver during severe weather.

Our policy with tornado warnings has always been to stay on the air as long as a warning is in effect for our viewing area. We realize this may be a very small percentage of viewers, but put yourself in their shoes. If a twister was headed for your house, or your parents' house, or your kid's school, what would you expect us to do? 

So the next time you see me, Brandon, Andrew or Paul instead of the 4th quarter of close game or Final Jeopardy, know two things... we believe the situation is life-threatening and we'll get you back to programming as quick as possible. 

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