Commentary

Real Media Riffs - Friday, Jan 5, 2007

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN AL GORE'S COURT -- We just received the January/February issue of Yankee magazine, and at first glance, we assumed it must've been either a really old one, or one from some point in an alternate future--in fact, a different season altogether. The cover, which features a rosy-cheeked young tyke gazing upward amid falling snowflakes, carries the cover lines: "Snow Days" and "What to do. Where to go. Why we love them."

Surely, the Yankee editors who prepared the magazine for what traditionally would have been their coldest--and snowiest--issue of the year, may not have anticipated that we'd be reading it in the toasty comfort of our home-- with the air conditioner on. Seriously, there were song birds whistling outside our window early this morning, and tomorrow is supposed to approach 70 degrees. Understand, we are not writing this from a sunbelt market like Miami, Santa Fe or L.A., but from a Yankee state, Connecticut.

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Like most Northeasterners, we've experienced occasional spells of freakishly warm weather, but what we're witnessing now is no Indian summer. It's more like an endless summer. And if some climatologists are correct, the inconvenient truth is that future covers of Yankee's January/February issues will feature, "What to do to stay cool," "Where to go on the Vermont shore," and nostalgic recollections of, "Why we loved snow days."

Actually, it was a Mid-Atlantic-based magazine to the south of Yankee's turf that got its current cover right--almost. This week's The New Yorker features an illustration by Ivan Brunetti depicting a child ice skating in New York's Central Park on a tiny little iceberg floating on a pond. In the background, you can see melted snow dripping from trees. It was almost right, because as of Jan. 5, no snow has actually fallen in Central Park.

The media are often criticized for missing the most important stories in any given year. If Al Gore is right, they may be missing the most important story of our species. And that cover line may read: "Inhabitable For Humanity."

If you haven't yet seen "An Inconvenient Truth," we recommend you do so immediately. Leave work early today, go to Blockbuster, or dial up pay-per-view and rent it. Better yet, buy it. Buy several copies and give them to everyone you love or care about. It's the most important story of our species, and yet it somehow isn't getting out in the media.

Sure, big media covers the story every once in a while, but most of it is either out-there, alarmist stuff, or prosaic pedestrian journalism. Take this week's exceptional warm spell in the Northeast. Local TV weather reports show bites of people sunning themselves in Central Park, wearing sunglasses and saying, "Yeah, global warming. I'll take it any day." Then there's the economic consequence angle: The stories about local ski resorts, or winter weather activities that are suffering from the lack of snowfall and chilly temperatures.

Yes, those stories are important, but they're not the major story. Global warming is the biggest story ever. It should be the lead story every day, and there should be an acute media focus on exactly what our society is doing to address the issue: what the government and industry are doing, and what we as citizens are doing.

If NBC's "Today" show coverage of the phenomenon is any indication, not much.

In a segment entitled "Why the wacky weather this winter?" on this morning's edition of "Today," anchor Meredith Vieira gushes, "Now to what can only be described as wacky winter weather," and asks, "Has the world been turned upside down?"

NBC News correspondent Lisa Daniels goes on to report, "Ice skating without jackets in Central Park. Cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. in January. What's going on here?" The segment then cuts to a woman-on-the-street interview in which a sunny- dispositioned global warming fan admits, "I enjoy it. I think it's great."

Great. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to run out to Starbucks for an iced mochachino before our next tee time.

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