On the front page of Tuesday's Business section, New York Times media reporter Michael Grynbaum helped open a new front in the liberal media's never-ending war against Fox News by talking about…weather coverage? But you see, it’s Fox weather coverage, so it’s automatically controversial, even if the project hasn’t actually launched yet. From the headline, it was clear what Grynbaum's angle would be: “Fox Wants to Do for TV Weather What It Did for Cable News.”
One can almost hear the booing and hissing among Times readers triggered by that leading headline. Except this time, Grynbaum had The Weather Channel to assist him in this preemptive pot shots (click “expand”):
Weather is taking the media industry by storm.
Later this year, Rupert Murdoch is set to debut Fox Weather, a 24-hour streaming channel that promises to do for seven-day forecasts what Fox has done for American politics, financial news and sports. Not to be outdone, the Weather Channel -- granddaddy of television meteorology -- announced the creation of a new streaming service, Weather Channel Plus, that the company believes could reach 30 million subscribers by 2026.
Much of the recent flurry of activity is motivated by the weather world’s big new interloper: Fox, whose unlikely entry into 24/7 weather broadcasting is part of a digital push by the Murdoch family.
Sean Hannity will not be giving a forecast (yet). But Fox Weather, which will be funded by advertisers, is aggressively poaching star meteorologists from Houston, Seattle, St. Louis and other markets. It is also taking a run at major talent at the Weather Channel, with several Hollywood agents recounting frenzied bidding wars….
Inside Mr. Murdoch’s company, the view is that the sometimes-staid world of weather TV is ripe for disruption….
Wondering if Hannity will be doing the weather? Give me a break. These people really do think so little of Fox. Grynbaum noted that the venture will be overseen by Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and longtime Fox executive Sharri Berg (and not, say, a team of pundits) and has started hiring meteorologists (like Shane Brown from The Weather Channel), but those seemed like minor details for Grynbaum.
As for what he did give plenty of room for, he gave The Weather Channel the floor to discredit their competition:
“They couldn’t even get a headline right about Tropical Storm Bill,” said Nora Zimmett, the network’s chief content officer, referring to a FoxNews.com article that some meteorologists criticized because it claimed that a relatively benign storm posed a “massive” risk to the Eastern Seaboard.
“I applaud Fox getting into the weather space, but they should certainly leave the lifesaving information to the experts,” said Ms. Zimmett, who worked at Fox News in the 2000s. She called climate change “a topic that is too important to politicize, and if they do that, they will be doing Americans a disservice.”
The Times also ran a graphic showing the channel’s ratings are up seven percent for the year to date, but upon closer inspection, they're not exactly impressive (and hence at least some of the snark).
Grynbaum seized on “climate change” as a potential political wedge and even managed to use the recent Portland heat-wave as a weapon, using an odd source (click “expand,” emphasis added):
Climate change is a broad-based concern. A Pew Research survey in April found that 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believed that human activity contributes to climate change. (The figure is 91 percent for Democrats and those with Democratic-leaning views.)
Still, some of Fox News’s conservative commentators, including Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, have a track record of downplaying, if not denying, the threat of climate change. The subject has even generated division within the Murdoch family: James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s younger son, rebuked his father last year after Murdoch-owned media outlets in Australia dismissed climate change as a culprit for deadly wildfires that ravaged the country.
Brian Wieser, the lead analyst at GroupM, the media investing arm of the ad giant WPP, laughed at the notion that weather could be considered apolitical. “You would think -- except I’m sitting here in Portland, Ore., in 115 degrees,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s an uncontroversial topic.”
Referring to Fox Weather, he added: “How do you address the fact that weather changes are caused to some degree by humans when you have a media property with a history of challenging that fact?”
It’s pretty hypocritical to warn about misinformation from the not-even-launched Fox Weather when the meteorologists and forecasters who work for the major networks have spread phony disaster rhetoric on “global warming” for years, including NBC's Today show superstar weatherman Al Roker and Good Morning America's Ginger Zee. Not to mention doomsday climate nonsense in the Times itself.