Editorial: The Name Game

Weather has been a major story line of late, with record-setting freezes and storms gripping the Midwest and Eastern half of the U.S. and a severe drought in California. But what really frosts a lot of weather watchers isn’t climate change or shoveling—it’s the perceived gimmickry of the Weather Channel naming winter storms. The National Weather Service, of course, has long named hurricanes. But Weather Channel’s winter pile-on—its latest creation, Janus, dumped nearly a foot of snow on the East—has drawn scattered showers of criticism as Weather jousts with DirecTV in a carriage dispute.

Network president Dave Clark at this month’s TCA press tour compared the net’s role in society to that of a public utility. But Clark also said he would be glad to have the NWS claim dibs on naming. (For now, the service simply doesn’t acknowledge them.) “Often the private sector moves ahead of the public sector,” Clark reasoned. Though he added, “When [former New York] mayor Bloomberg gets up and uses ‘Nemo’ in a press conference, that’s fun for us.” On Jan. 21, Weather ran an online post explaining the “science” of its naming.

We applaud Weather’s public reckoning with how storm names fit into a utility role. Collaborating with NWS in winter, as in hurricane season, wouldn’t hamper the net’s well-earned ability to draw clicks and ratings. Blizzard-beset audiences do like having a specific name to curse.