“This winter will be memorable for prolonged bitter cold and snowstorms so frequent that many communities will run out of rock salt.”
Do you remember which local TV weather forecaster said that in his long-range winter forecast last fall?
The answer: none of them.
Every year, the TV stations hype their meteorologists’ long-range winter forecasts, hoping we’ll tune in and then quickly forget their predictions. We decided to keep score this year.
Every inch of snow that falls will further bury those forecasts in disgrace. KDKA’s Jeff Verszyla, WPXI’s Stephen Cropper and WTAE’s Mike Harvey didn’t come close to guessing what this winter would bring.
As of the end of February, Mr. Harvey leads the trio in accuracy for his snowfall prediction, which is to say he missed it by only 20.4 inches. He guessed 38 inches would fall before March 1 — actual snowfall was 58.4 inches.
Mr. Cropper told us we’d have 33.5 inches through the end of February. Mr. Verszyla’s dart missed the board entirely, with a forecast of 26 inches through February, or less than half of what actually came down.
Mr. Verszyla said we’d get only 32 inches for the entire winter; counting the weekend’s snowfall, we’re at 60.8 inches for the season.
Mr. Harvey told us the average February temperature would be 1 degree below normal. He’s getting colder … colder. The actual average was 5.4 degrees below normal.
Mr. Verszyla said February temperatures would “nosedive below normal,” and Mr. Cropper said it would be the “coldest month.” Not exactly going out on a limb there, but Mr. Cropper even got that wrong: January’s average temperature of 22.1 degrees was 3.6 degrees colder than February’s average.
Our forecast: These gentlemen will be back in the fall with another round of shameless, self-promoting long-term forecasts. Viewers should take them with a truckload of salt.
Excellent, chilling report by The New York Times looks back (with video) at the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007 and how little the U.S. has done since then to address declining infrastructure. See it here.
The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline in Pittsburgh has risen by 14.4 cents per gallon in the past month, to $3.651, according to GasBuddy.com. That’s 20.6 cents above the national average but still 18.4 cents cheaper than the average price here a year ago. Gasoline prices are another thing that “experts” like to forecast well in advance, with mixed success.
We can state with utter certitude that Daylight-Saving Time begins this weekend, with clocks advancing by an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday. We are reasonably sure that the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be closed in both directions between Butler Valley (Exit 39) and Allegheny Valley (Exit 48) from 11:59 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday. Crews will remove overhead bridge beams at Route 910. The turnpike planned the closure for last weekend, but bailed because of the snow forecast. Traffic will be detoured via Routes 8, 28 and 910 and Freeport Road.
Pothole patching will cause lane closures on southbound Interstate 79 from Route 19 to Route 910 in Marshall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
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If the personal is political, as they say, then the sexual revolution is indeed a revolution. That was in evidence in Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a bill that would have effectively allowed business owners a stronger legal defense if they refused to provide services to same-sex couples.
It wasn't that long ago that such legislation would have been a sure winner. Now it's a loser even in a state like Arizona, whose immigration laws have hardly lent it an air of political correctness.
We also noted recently that a federal judge in Kentucky said attitudes against homosexuality may become as anachronistic as those justifying legal discrimination against racial minorities and women. That's happening sooner rather than later.
A new poll shows as much. Taken by the Public Religion Research Institute, it shows how a solid majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, whereas more than two-thirds opposed it back in 2003 when Massachusetts was legalizing it under court order. In Pennsylvania, 61 percent support same-sex marriage, mirroring other recent surveys.
The poll would indicate that conservative groups, both political and religious, are paying a price for their historic opposition (if not outright hostility) to gays and lesbians. Gay marriage is looked on more favorably by younger adults (though it's growing among all age groups), and people tend to perceive Catholic, Mormon and evangelical churches as especially unfriendly to gays and lesbians. Of those who left their childhood religion, a quarter said it was partly because of their religions' treatment of gays, and the figure is higher among younger adults, who are also more secular. Something to consider as liberal churches, who have long debated and finally approved ordaining gays, begin to consider endorsing same-sex marriage. Such proposals are coming before the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s General Assembly this June.
Certainly many conservative churches feel they have to take the stand they do on eternal principles rather than poll results, but the results do show the price they're paying at least in terms of public perception. One could also point out that the liberal churches who are most open to gays are actually suffering some of the worst membership losses.
Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara in "House of Cards."
SPOILER ALERT: If you're not caught up on the current season of House of Cards, mild spoilers ahead.
Much has been written about the portrayal of journalists in the Netflix series "House of Cards." For the most part, the show's fictional reporters are examples of what not to do; they sleep with sources in exchange for information, contact shady computer hackers (whose portrayal is a whole other level of fiction) to help them break the law, and promise to print whatever a source tells them, among other things. One older editor even decries the rise of blogs and Twitter (he's actually a slightly more realistic character, a version of whom a few print reporters have likely come across).
As any reputable journalist knows, most of the antics of HoC's girl reporter Zoe Barnes would get a real reporter fired. The only truly realistic journalists in the series are the real-life journalists who appear as themselves (Matt Bai and Ashleigh Banfield).
But there is a long history of potraying reporters in movies and on television as more interesting and less realistic than we really are. If you tried to make a movie about what the average reporter does on a given day, it would likely involve a vending machine lunch, waiting for return phone calls, staking out a crime scene in the freezing cold, waiting for a police spokesman to take pity on you and tell you what's happening, and cursing at the computer that has crashed (AGAIN) and lost the 1,000 word story that's already way past deadline.
Not the sexiest job in the world.
The venerable Bob Woodward once said sometimes when people meet him they are disappointed that he doesn't look more like Robert Redford, who portrayed Woodward in the 1976 film "All the President's Men." That movie was, of course, based on the book Woodward co-authored with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman in the film), about their reporting on the 1972 break-in at the Watergate Hotel and subsequent coverup by members of President Nixon's administration (read your history, kids).
But All the President's Men was a mostly realistic portrayal of how the reporters got the story.
With the Oscars coming up this weekend, we were thinking about other movies that depict journos, good, bad and otherwise. Newscastic put together a pretty decent list of 10 Movies Every Journalist Should Watch (even though the headline isn't in AP style), and the PG's Barb Vancheri wrote about the topic of unrealistic journalist movies back in 2007.
Which newsroom-based movie is your favorite, and who's your favorite fictional reporter?
Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Bernstein and Woodward in "All the President's Men." You can see clear evidence of fast-food dining, sadly a staple of many a reporter's diet...