No two guys in Atlanta TV news love hurricanes more than Tony Thomas and Ross Cavitt. Both men went to Louisiana to cover Gustav. Ultimately, the story was one of a storm that bore little resemblance to Katrina, despite endless comparisons during the media build-up.
WSB’s Cavitt is also a meteorologist. He gives his weather coverage a whiff of the scientific, without devolving into pocket-protector nerdiness. Cavitt always plays up the human element, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. On Monday, he found a guy named Todd Browning who told WSB viewers “this really wasn’t a hurricane.” This report shows Cavitt in full wind-blown glory.
WAGA’s Thomas isn’t a meteorologist. He’s more of a human cannonball. Thomas won three Emmys this year, two for weather coverage. He’s the kind of guy who will lead his crew from hurricane to hurricane, stoically working double shifts for the sheer joy of being a TV guy. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.
Like Cavitt, Thomas’s quest is for the spectacular video and the human story. It’s the best reason to want to be in the middle of a hurricane. Otherwise, it’s all about police roadblocks (that don’t always yield for media trucks), accommodations on the fly in power-less locales, and meals of QuickTrip taquitoes. Plus, the wet clothes and body odor. In other words, sheer misery.
(First hand, here are my top three overnight hurricane coverage accommodations: Once, in the lobby of the Federal Reserve Bank of Miami; once in the back of an ambulance in a fire station in Niceville FL; once on a cot outdoors at an Army Air station in New Orleans; the latter two with this guy.)
CNN’s Jeanne Moos produced an amusing story spoofing the gusty antics of TV folks covering Gustav. It’s worth watching for her treatment of Geraldo Rivera.
Here’s the downer: WXIA sent no reporter to Gustav. Yet their feed story Monday from an NBC guy had more diverse elements and was more completely told than either Cavitt’s or Thomas’s stories. The reason: Cavitt and Thomas are lone wolves. They have too many deadlines and too many logistical hurdles (and no field producer working with them) to get copies of video from other sources.
The NBC guy also declined to use the phrase “we’re not out of the woods yet.” We realize this cliche is like an old friend during hurricanes. We’d like to hear it re-phrased.
If tropical storm Hanna continues its path for Tybee Island, don’t be surprised if Cavitt and Thomas show up there too.