A pandemic diary: A break in the weather

November 22, 2021

It’s 52 degrees and mostly cloudy. There’s a two percent chance of rain through the next hour, with a high of 56 this afternoon and a low of 33 tonight. The Thanksgiving outlook is, “Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High 63F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” Sounds like a good day to walk off a big meal and enjoy the fall colors.

While these particular numbers are innocuous, the accuracy of a weather report can mean the difference between life and death. When my wife and I owned a beach house, we religiously watched the local news and the National Hurricane Center for signs of a storm.

The credibility of the forecaster is vital. That’s why it was so outrageous when Trump doctored a hurricane map. So why would the Weather Channel share its online real estate with a fake-news purveyor that’s blasting out anti-vaccine hysteria?

News Break is among the sponsored content (clickbait) floating around on the channel app. Founded by a Chinese media exec in Beijing, it aims to crack the U.S. market by billing itself as, “your #1 local news app for current events, free live news, business news, and more.” Here’s a sample.

Screenshot of News Break screen with false Covid stories.

Not surprisingly, the comment section is full of hatred and vitriol. Some reviews: “The trolling is out of control along with the racists.” “The News Break App is nothing short of a racist’s paradise.” “Never in my life have I seen such [a] hate-filled, threatening, racist, cruel, vile, & disgusting ‘news’ site.’”

I know the Weather Channel is not directly responsible. And yes, clickbait makes money, which is why it’s everywhere. But there’s a difference between, “Kourtney Kardashian Shows Off Toned Abs,” and “Pfizer’s Whistleblower Reveals Vaccine Data Integrity Issues.” A weather operation that’s built around science puts its own integrity at risk by propagating this junk.

Needless to say, the app is gone from my phone, like a couple of anti-vax musicians are absent from my playlists. (I also deep-sixed NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” from my radio for its unfunny ageism.) Even if you can’t fix stupid, you can keep it out of your space and send a message to whoever put it there. Take care, have a great Thanksgiving, and be safe.

Originally published at http://davesswan.wordpress.com on November 22, 2021.

More from the diary

Blues and the cold, hard truth
The kids will be all right
Boosted

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Writer, editor, ex-journalist, all-around communicator. Comfortable in real and fictional worlds. Always on the lookout for a great story.

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David Swan

David Swan

Writer, editor, ex-journalist, all-around communicator. Comfortable in real and fictional worlds. Always on the lookout for a great story.

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