16 January 2009

A Lesson To Television Media

I've lived in the frozen heartland, where my new car didn't start because the engine fluids were frozen. I've also lived in the desert, where I've burned my hands on a scorched steering wheel. I've seen all sorts of weather extremes and I am here today with a message to the media: winter is not news in the Midwest.

I spent three winters in Fargo. Those winters taught me the meaning of the word and I don't think I complained once. It snows in winter. It gets cold and things freeze. Still -- people live. They go to work, take their kids to school, go the the gym, get groceries and run errands. I get annoyed when people say "I just can't imagine living like that." I want to say "you already do." People in the Upper Midwest, or in Upstate New York, or New England are people. And they're probably nicer than you.

Sure there are inconveniences, like new cars that have to be towed to a garage for thawing. That's nothing a block heater can't fix. There are perks as well, like bringing the car around so some teenager can load your groceries in the trunk. There are the typical problems that come with snow, like waiting for snowplows. But even that isn't as serious when you live in a place where people know how to drive in the snow.

I'm highly miffed at media coverage this winter. It's cold where it's supposed to be cold. This is a view of New York City, courtesy of Angie, who I met in the 5th grade. It's cold in NYC, just as it should be. It's also as cold as it should be in the Midwest. What makes that newsworthy? I feel like the media are treating the Midwest like a freak show in a fishbowl. "Look honey, it snowed. But they keep living there." Maybe the secret is not in how they "survive" the winter, but in what they get in exchange. Beautiful summers (with temperatures that can hit or top 100 degrees), lush greenery, and good quality of life. As the saying goes: "40 below keeps the riff-raff out."

Furthermore, you can not convey cold through a television screen. You can not make me feel the difference between 5 and -25, especially if I've grown up in one of those places that stares at Fargo as if it were the edge of the world. You can't describe how the air stops your breathing because it's too cold when it hits your lungs, or what it's like to breathe through a scarf and break off the ice that forms in the shape of your mouth. No static shot describes the quiet that comes after a snow storm, when everything is blanketed and peaceful. You, media, can't give me that. What you can give me, is a grown man hammering a nail with a banana.
You should be bringing me things of note, like snow in Las Vegas or a drought in Northern California. The media should be discussing the 70's in San Francisco. That's just not normal. Even the below zero temperatures heading southeast are out of atypical. But for North Dakota, Minnesota and New England -- this is winter. You don't have to like it. You don't have to live there. And you don't have to tell me it's anything more.