Are all snow stories… kinda the same?
Reporter reveals the not-so-secret formula for snow stories
We get a lot of snow in Newfoundland and Labrador, so in the news, we do a lot of snow stories.
I've been a TV reporter in St. John's for 13 years, and in that time, I have filed approximately 9,000 snow stories. And while every snowflake is unique and special, every snow story is … not.
Perhaps this is not exactly news to you.
When a news anchor leads off with something like, "Another snowstorm is hitting the province" or talks about the white stuff maybe "pounding the province" or even "walloping the province" — and we reserve walloping for the really big ones — you're probably able to imagine what you're about to watch.
Perhaps it looks a little something like this…
People out shovelling their properties is an essential ingredient — the onions, if you will, of the recipe for a TV snow story.
They can be seasoned veterans of our harsh winters or new arrivals who have never held a snow shovel in their lives. Ideally, they should look like they're working hard, but with a grin-and-bear-it disposition.
There's nobody more miserable in a snowstorm than someone who has to walk in it.
And seeing the pedestrian's plight on TV really puts into perspective how lucky you are to be inside, or in a vehicle.
Bonus points if someone wipes out — hard enough to be funny, but not so hard as to hurt themselves and make you feel bad. It's a special balance — the souffle of the weather story.
Shovellers and walkers are easy to come by, but the elusive plow driver is harder to score an interview with, because on snow days, they tend to be busy.
Still, the plow driver is definitely a recurring character in the snow story.
On rare occasions, the entire story will focus on the plow driver and their noble, solitary quest. But more often, the plow driver pops up briefly, lending a professional contrast to the shoveller's amateur antics.
There's one sure way to wrap up a snow story: a dusting of cute kids.
Sliding on a hill, building a fort or, as in a recent viral tweet, collapsing into the snow from sheer exhaustion and the crushing emotional anguish that is the Canadian winter.
Atmosphere: *snows*<br><br>Atmosphere: *snows more*<br><br>Newfoundlanders:<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#nlwx</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/sendhelp?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#sendhelp</a> <a href="https://t.co/Hl1FLkosle">pic.twitter.com/Hl1FLkosle</a>—@CBCNL
When in doubt: props
Maybe the reporter assigned to cover the storm story is out of ideas, or maybe the producer wants to see something different — or maybe it's just the fifth storm in a week and you've already featured every shoveller, walker and plow driver in the city.
That's when we start scraping the barrel and reach for the props.
A wind meter (an anemometer if you're a fancy-pants meteorologist) is the go-to if you're trying to look serious and scientific — but you can't pull it out of the drawer for each and every snowstorm.
In my desperate attempts to convey snowiness, I have used every gadget we had in the newsroom. Measuring tape? Did that last week.
Using a bathroom scale to weigh shovel-loads of snow? That's a good one, and it gets the shovellers involved.
And every once in a while — maybe once in a reporter's entire career — you come up with an angle for a weather that is actually original, like that time I went ice skating down a frozen sidewalk in 2009.
That's snow business, baby
This isn't about mocking news coverage of snowstorms, and I'm not even saying any of this is bad.
Every genre has its conventions — if you're reading a detective novel and there isn't a murder by page three, you'd wonder what was going on, wouldn't you?
Of course, it will soon snow again, and this reporter will be back out there, camera in tow, prop in hand, in pursuit of the nearest shoveller.
When you live in a place where snow dominates your life for six months of the year, that's kind of the way it is.
It's like the weather: No use complaining about it — you've gotta learn to love it.