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Alternate reality: The Weather Network

Weather Network Newscast

The Weather Network is a portal to another reality. It’s a 24-hour cable news channel where everything revolves around the weather, all the time. Every bulletin and every story segment is about the weather, climate change, or about the weather’s impact on traffic or other aspects of people’s lives (cars spinning out in deep snow, homes destroyed by falling trees or floods).

There is no irony in the Weather Network’s flow: it’s as if the anchors and journalists aren’t even aware that there’s another world out there, one where the weather is merely a small part of people’s lives. Presenters are professionally dressed in business attire and have all the mannerisms of CNN or BBC World: they say things like, “Up next!” or “What an interesting story there.”

Coming Up

During the frequent “news bulletins,” there are even ‘chatty’ parts where two anchors (!) share some informal banter with the viewers, like this:

Anchor 1: We thought we’d start this newscast by showing you some pictures of warm, sunny Toronto yesterday.
Anchor 2: Let’s do it!

Since nothing actually happens during the news bulletins, they are filled with B-roll images from around the country, showing iconic scenes from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, St. John’s, Toronto… catalogued (in a very large media library, one presumes) by season and weather condition, so that the appropriate clip is shown. For example, one of today’s stories was “Vancouver has Winter Woes of Its Own,” where we learned that winters are hard even in Vancouver because it always rains there:

It Always Rains in Vancouver

One of my favourite parts is how the Weather Network has its own weather report. Just after the news, the actual weather report comes on, with a country-wide review of meteorological conditions, followed by an exhaustive local forecast. Of course, there’s also a traveler’s forecast that talks about a number of US cities.

The Weather Network also runs house promos where it tells us why it’s the best Weather Network out there (there are no others). It claims to have “40 meteorologists” on staff who anticipate and report on storms and other extreme weather conditions, and the promo is filled with dramatic images of floods, hurricanes and cars sliding on highways during blizzards.

The high production values of The Weather Network make it eerily similar to the Onion News Network, the Internet’s most brilliant video news satire, where everything is just like real television, only much, much funnier.

Now, you can sort of work out why the Weather Network is the way it is. This is a channel most reasonable people will only flip to for a quick weather check before leaving the house in the morning. Its ‘bounce rate’ must be very high. So the idea of creating ‘sticky’ viewers by offering interesting stories, opinions and banter to hang on to that viewer just a little bit longer must have made sense to someone.

But I like to imagine that there are home-bound people somewhere for whom the Weather Network is a main source of information about the world. Who are continually amazed at the astounding goings-on in Canada’s weather, who are delighted with the “international news” items about tropical storms and Canadian travelers stuck at airports due to white-outs.

In popular culture, the weatherman is typically the newsroom underdog: an aspiring journalist who doesn’t quite measure up to his news anchor brethren and who wears flashy jackets (it’s a waist-up sort of world) or does wacky things to catch our attention.

The Weather Network is the revenge of the weatherman: it’s all weather all the time. Because if you can’t join them, just create your own.

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