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Published: Monday, 2/2/2004

14-day weather 'outlook' is cloudy

Competitive pressures often force television stations to do things they wouldn't do on their own.

Perhaps the best example is the traffic reports on the three morning newscasts. Station A did it first to gain an edge on the competition. Station B followed because it could gain an edge on Station C. That left Station C, fearful that it would lose the perception game, with no other option.

Toledo's traffic does not warrant such extensive coverage, yet no station is going to drop the reports unless the other two do the same.

Don't look now, but an even bigger head-scratcher has made its way to local TV newscast. WTOL-TV, Channel 11, recently introduced a 14-day weather "outlook."

The other stations with daily newscasts -- WTVG-TV, Channel 13; WNWO, Channel 24; and WUPW-TV, Channel 36 -- would be wise to let WTOL fly solo on this one.

Television viewers have a love-hate relationship with weather forecasts. They crave the information, but complain about the accuracy.

Late last month, local weathercasters twice cranked up the hype meter for snowstorms that didn't come close to meeting expectations. (A case could be made that, collectively, local stations were irresponsible in the way they presented the news of approaching storms. It was as if they wanted to strike fear into viewers -- and for this, news anchors and reporters are as much to blame as meteorologists.)

Weathercasters are easy targets for criticism because their forecasts often don't pan out. It's the nature of the job -- blame it on Mother Nature. Viewers may forgive inaccurate forecasts, but they don't forget.

Seven-day forecasts involve a healthy dose of guesswork. For a 14-day "outlook," you might as well get out a dartboard. On Jan. 23, WTOL's Robert Shiels predicted the high temperature would be 19 yesterday and 30 today. (Over the next six days, the predicted highs had changed significantly -- 32 yesterday and 25 today.)

It was about this time last year that WTOL ran promos that said, "You can count on Robert." The station touted the accuracy of his forecasts.

Shiels is a real pro, for sure, but he'd have a tough time beating a dartboard for predicting temperatures 14 days out.

ON THE MEND: Toledo native Dan Bradley, vice president of news for Media General's broadcast division in Richmond, Va., had his left kidney removed Jan. 5 after doctors discovered a malignant tumor on it.

The 53-year-old Bradley, a Central Catholic High School graduate, is cautiously optimistic: "This particular cancer, renal cell carcinoma, is not treatable by chemo or radiation, so we are hoping that we got it all during this surgery."

Bradley said he discovered his situation while visiting Toledo in November. He hopes to return to his office, on a part-time basis, this week.

DOUBLE DUTY: WIOT-FM (104.7) program director Don Gosselin has taken on an additional role -- program director for WRVF-FM (101.5). Both stations are owned by Clear Channel.

TV RATINGS: Thursday will mark the beginning of Nielsen Media Research's four-week "February sweeps."

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