Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 5
February 3-9, 2000
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Can anyone explain why the local TV channels felt it necessary to preempt national programming all day Tuesday, Jan. 25, so they could drone on endlessly about the snow? Talk about repetition — it was boring.
—Robert Marshner, Letter to the Editor, The Sun, Feb. 1, 2000.

No one could have said it better, Bob. It was only a snow storm, no earth-shaking calamity. Just a media blitz, a build-the-ratings scheme by the electronic media that accomplished little more than pollute the airwaves.

Up here in North County where Park Road parallels the eastern shoreline of Stoney Creek near its junction with the Patapsco and a long cast from the upper Chesapeake, neighbors have dug out of the storm far better than the snowplows have dug out Park Road, which remains ruts of slippery and treacherous ice.

Only twice since the snow came has a county plow been by, and it’s even worse on the connecting side road, contrary to what County Exec Janet Owens promised in her few minutes on the tube the day the storm struck.

I guess that’s what we get up here in northern sectors of AA County for not having been too Owens-inclined in the most recent election.

Constituent services? Not since I relocated here from the northern suburbs of Baltimore in the mid ’70s has the network of streets of Fort Smallwood Road — the main artery for this heavily populated neck of the woods — been so neglected. And we’ve had far worse storms over the years.

Sturdy Northerners

We’re a sturdy lot hereabouts. Life goes on as usual; we dig and de-ice our way out. Back home again, we endure whatever weather comes our way and enjoy a laugh or two about others who do likewise. Like my friend Bruce.

When the big storm struck, Bruce shoveled a nice parking area for his pickup truck on the parking lot of a yacht club where he lives aboard his boat. When he returned home one evening, a fellow with a four-wheel drive had taken his place, so Bruce spent a lot of time shoveling again — this time putting back all the snow he dug out before around the vehicle of the interloper.

Then Bruce hits the bunk in his boat, but guilt takes over. He dons his winter duds and heads outside and removes all that used snow from the intruder’s truck. That’s three times he has worked the shovel at the same spot. Yet he still doesn’t have a clear space for his own vehicle.

And Bruce, like the rest of us, reads how David Townsend got Baltimore County road crews to plow his private lane — right to the doorstep. He had pull. His wife, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, is our lieutenant governor — though she was out of town when the flakes fell.

Kennedys are accustomed to perks, but we’re curious how Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersburger takes all of this gratis snowplowing by his storm troops, seeing he’s expected to run against KKT for guv in 2002. Going into the campaign, she owes him one.

TV Snow Jobs

Where were the always vigilant TV remote crews when that curious plowing-of-private-roads scenario was taking place? Probably out trying to find a soft snowdrift for an on-the-scene announcer to fall in to add a little excitement to his otherwise dreary 60-second live report of what video reporters hyped as a blizzard, though it really wasn’t.

Moreover, it never entered the minds of gullible viewers that that snow-dunking scene broadcast on Jan. 25 might have been planned. It’s a shot we see every couple of years, and as TV announcers become more prima donna-like we can expect a stunt man (or woman) to take the dive for the on-air personality a few blizzards down the road.

Tell you one thing: Video coverage of the storm was so drab, boring and superfluous, it was an incentive to get out of the house and shovel snow, feed the birds, make a snowman or even just stand there and freeze.

I can envision it all on the other side of the tube. On-the-scene broadcasters squabbling about who gets the assignment to do the remote from warm, protected and comfy BWI where after interviewing a stranded traveler or two he/she can sidle up to the bar and have a hot toddy or two along with a hot meal.

Sure beats taking a planned dive into a pile of snow, though lacking in drama. Also beats shivering in the snowy cold in front of Jan’s Pizza Parlor where the crew at the ovens might not realize they’re expected to trot out stacks of hot ‘tomato pies’ for the reporter and his/her crew. And don’t forget the hot coffee.

Media Blizzard

“This hype is just insane.”

So said Dennis Kritzmacher, owner of Wings To Go in Arbutus, lamenting the lack of business in the storm, much of it due to the scaring off of potential customers with the old time-worn phrase “If you don’t have to go out, stay home,” which is another way of saying stay home and help us build our ratings.

In five words, Dennis summed up what many of us were thinking during media blizzard coverage of the Great Storm of 2000.

One can take only so much of grim-faced men and women attired in the latest designer togs from Eddie Bauer and L. L. Bean standing, mike in hand, next to a pile of snow telling us how bad it is. Meanwhile, they’re paying someone to blow-dry not just their hair — which curiously stays in place as the wind howls — but also the snow on their walks and driveways back home.
Methinks they should take their own advice: Stay home. They’d be doing us all a favor. Enough said …

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly