Friday, December 9, 2016


I’m in Chicago. The last time I was here it was September and so warm that we were concerned with turning on the air conditioner. The fan is still sitting in the living room where we used it to bring in the cool evening air. It seems pretty irrelevant now.

I got here just as the weather changed from mild to cold. I heard all about it on the local news. It fascinates me how the news reports the weather now. Words are my business, so I pay a lot of attention to how they are used. No longer do they merely list what the high and low temperature is going to be and whether there is going to be sun, clouds, rain or snow. It seems that whatever the conditions are going to be, they are described in threatening terms. Everything now seems to be about wind chill. All the talk today was that the wind chill was going to make it feel like it was zero. But when it’s zero, the wind chill is always lower than zero, so who knows what zero even feels like.

The weather people were using terms like frigid and dangerous cold. I was supposed to meet a friend for breakfast and I wondered if I’d turn into an icicle on the way since I had to walk a far distance. After all the warnings to bundle up, I put on a long coat I keep here, along with a hat, a scarf and gloves before bracing myself to face the icy blast the weather people had warned about.

It wasn’t that bad. The wind gusts did take my breath away, but all I had to do was hold the scarf in front of my mouth to block the wind and I was okay. I walked almost four miles and I was fine whatever the wind chill was.

Now they’re talking about two snow storms coming this weekend. It is interesting how they describe the accumulation. The weather person talked about a European measurement and I guess an American measurement. There was no explanation what the two measurements meant, or why since they were both in inches, they were different. Also the weather pattern to create all this snow is still quite a distance away, so you have to wonder how accurate all the warnings were anyway.

The point seems to be to make any weather condition sound as dramatic and dangerous as possible. As if everybody doesn’t have enough to worry about already.

I notice that whenever they talk about the national weather and some storm path, they talk about the millions of people who will be impacted by it. That’s a new thing and it certainly makes it sound worse than it is.

Area has become region. And though this has nothing to do with weather, the big word on the Internet now seems to be hack. According to the dictionary, the word hack has several meanings, but none that include how it is being used currently. Now hack seems to mean a shortcut in doing something. I guess hack is slang.

I do my best not to include slang when I’m writing. It might sound trendy and current now, but once it’s over with, it just sounds tired and stupid. Think “talk to the hand.”
I guess becoming a writer has affected everything I do including how I watch the news. I am fascinated by the words they use and how they use them.


Anonymous said...

I loved this - and it's so true. The feels like the more the news can stir people up, the better. Why?

Linda O. Johnston said...

News has certainly changed from the way I learned it in journalism school, when the idea was to express what was happening with no exaggeration or emotion!

Linda Osborn said...

I fully agree. All journalism now seems to be dramatic, written or spoken. What about clear, concise statements, generally supposed to be impartial ? From local radio to the internet, reporters seem to try and outdo each other with their drama and "colorful" reporting. I liked the good old days !

Betty Hechtman said...

Anonymous, I think it is all about making the news seem more exciting which is ultimately about ratings.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, yes that's what I learned, too. I am still surprised when I read a newspaper news article and in the middle of it, the writer interjects their opinion.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda Osborn, the worst is when the TV news people start using Facebook posts as a source.

Julie said...

My favorite, here in Indianapolis, is the apocalyptic 1" snow. Any snow at all has become the impending end of the world. I don't think they have any adjectives left for a truly bad storm.

Julie said...

My favorite, here in Indianapolis, is the apocalyptic 1" snow. Any snow at all has become the impending end of the world. I don't think they have any adjectives left for a truly bad storm.

Betty Hechtman said...

Julie, you're right. I don't know what else they could say about a truly bad storm. I know there is an obligation to warn people of possible problems from the weather, but when nothing really bad materializes, after a while it becomes like the boy who cried wolf.