Everybody’s pissed about the weather. Just ask John Davitt, the chief meteorologist at New York 1 News, an all-news cable channel for the city’s five boroughs. It’s not Davitt’s fault that this winter has been terrible, but you wouldn’t know that from the way people react to him on Twitter (TWTR), where he posts updates along with his team as @NY1weather .
On Sunday, one New Yorker responded to news that more snow was imminent with an unambiguous “F––– you.” And just last night, after NY1 was Twitter-targeted for an obviously tongue-in-cheek radar photo, one bemused onlooker wrote: “I feel like NY Weather twitter is going rogue lately and I like it?”
With another storm on the horizon—NY1 has predicted up to 8 inches of snow accumulation beginning tonight—Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to Davitt about his role of Official Bearer of Bad Weather News on social media.
Are we ready for the storm tonight?
Everybody is beaten down. Whenever we put anything out there on Twitter, within minutes we get endless retweets and responses, saying things like “No’ and “I can’t take it anymore” and “I’m going to move!”
Sometimes they direct their fury at you.
That does happen, yes. We get a lot of expletives. Somebody’s got to take the blame. They’re not quite killing the messenger yet, but I am looking over my shoulder.
How has Twitter changed your job?
I remember when being a TV meteorologist just meant you’d go in front of a camera and talk about the weather. You didn’t communicate directly with your audience. Now everybody’s got his own axe to grind. Some people want to talk about the models. “What does this model say, what does that model say?” Some people want to know about schools, or what’s going to happen with public transportation.
That’s a lot of responsibility.
And you take it personally. I know somebody on Twitter who was getting married last weekend. So all of a sudden, I go from just putting out a forecast and whatever happens happens, to now I’m involved in whether this guy is going to have his wedding reception or not. This is not what they trained me for at weather school.
If you get it wrong, does the Twitterverse get mad?
Are you kidding me? All the time. We had a storm in early January, and I think I was predicting three to five inches. Some of the other outlets, like the Weather Channel, were going for maybe double that number. In the days leading up, I’d get a lot of Tweets like “Are you sure? You don’t want to amend that number?” I didn’t change my forecast, and unfortunately I was wrong, and a lot of people were like, “I told you! You should’ve listened to me!”
Have you had Twitter exchanges with somebody who seemed legitimately insane?
Oh yeah. We’ve got one guy, he’s half mystic, half government conspiracy. He talks a lot about contrails and how the government is conditioning the atmosphere for the aliens’ arrival.
So this storm that’s coming tonight? On a scale of one to 10, one being light flurries and 10 being arctic bedlam, just how bad is it going to be?
I’d put it in the middle. Like a six.
And if you’re wrong? If the storm is only a two or three?
I’m sure I’ll hear about it on Twitter.