Last night I was watching some network news and after the final story the anchor person signed out with the comment that this was "2008- Year of the tornado" following a story he had just done on tornado chasers.
We have certainly had an unusual amount of tornadic activity this season. Some of which has cause death and destruction to a bigger scale than we are used to, but there has been many other things as well to define this year.
In the past we have had the "Summer of sharks" and the year of Child Abductions and "Hurricane Season-2005" as themes on national news.
Locally we have also had "Fire Watch-2007" and "Flood Watch- 2000 and any year." And, along the years, many other catch phrase summaries of the news.
This theme reporting, while catchy, serves to focus on small components of our lives. While serving to increase pubic awareness of happenings, it also can blow things out of perspective.
The spring Elizabeth Smart was abducted, the news picked up many missing children stories. There were several that summer to be found. It scared many parents into thinking that stranger danger was on the increase and there was a kidnapper lurking around every corner.
They are still out there, but the true risk is much smaller that it was blown up to be. Kids are still at greater risk of injury, death and other unspeakable things from people they know and trust, than the complete stranger.
The year that shark attacks made the news, statistics ended up bearing out that there were actually a fewer shark attacks that season than on average. You would not have guessed that from watching the news.
Several years ago, our local TV news affiliates all had a huge flood watch-special report thing going. It turned out that very little flooding occurred and there was little to report on, mainly speculation and hand wringing while waiting to see if something would develop.
This theme style reporting can have negative effects for an area if people are afraid of whatever it is being reported on. As someone back east watches a series of stories about the west being on fire, then travel plans may change.
So why do TV networks and local stations have to name each season. I will continue to watch the news even if I have to decide for myself if there is a trend happening. I can comment to my husband that "My, there sure seems to be a lot of tornadoes this spring," without the news labeling it "2008- Year of the tornado," for me.
I have family in the midwest, so I do worry about the unusual weather hitting them. But then again I watch many other issues as well.
So I am going to rename this year as "2008-The year of the high gas price plunging economy election war tornado flooding fire drought heat wave Cubs may win the pennant year, amen."