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Storm coverage: Reporters wade into the story

This week’s early-season nor’easter gave TV weather reporters another chance to put on the Mackintoshes and body suits that barely had time to dry after Hurricane Sandy. That’s not to say they were eager to see potentially dangerous storms hit the region. But one suspects that, like college students with their flip-flops, TV storm watchers are constantly awaiting opportunities to don their favorite gear.

After all, a weather correspondent serves as a human testament to the inclement weather, leaning into the wind and rain and gesturing out toward angry waves thrashing the shore or toward trees bent by the wind. Every windblown reporter worthy of his or her Mack knows to have this ominous line at the ready: “Here in [name your seaside town], residents are bracing for the worst. Back to you [insert anchor’s name].”

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Hurricane Sandy, of course, offered an actual glimpse of the worst, sending many reporters wading deep into the floodwaters. Some went only calf-deep, but on CNN, Ali Velshi ventured almost to his waist into the water coursing through an Atlantic City street. That made him an object of both admiration and envy. When Wolf Blitzer marveled at Velshi’s wading of the waters, another CNN correspondent was quick to note that “that water was up to my knees and my waist as well, Wolf.”

In Ocean City, Md., a large wave sent CBS’s Chip Reid scrambling to save the TV camera. Still, the most memorable storm-braving moment went to ABC’s Matt Gutman and his producer. As they prepared for a report from the beach in Nags Head, N.C., surf from a breaking wave washed over the two, leaving them scrambling to escape the backwash. Both Reid and Gutman were back on the air shortly, highlighting their brushes with danger.

Easy, guys. There’s a long, angry winter yet to come. Weather reporting is a great chance to show, and not tell, but it’s also a job like any other: TV reporters shouldn’t take any unnecessary chances, lest they themselves end up being the storm story next time around.

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