It’s relatively common to see sports interrupted for weather warnings, and to see viewers get mad about that. It’s much more unusual to see a local station apologize for a decision to not cut into live sports for a weather warning. But that’s what NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth (KXAS) did Monday, apologizing for a delay in interrupting the Sunday Night Football clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys to warn about the three tornadoes that hit the Dallas area Sunday night. Here’s their statement:
During Sunday night’s Dallas Cowboys game, we made a mistake by not immediately interrupting the football game with a Tornado Warning.
Although our meteorologists were tracking thunderstorms across the area when the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Dallas County, we delayed breaking into programming for six minutes.
Our meteorologists were also streaming live weather coverage throughout the evening on our site, NBCDFW.com. We also alerted the football audience to our weather livestream throughout the game.
When it comes to dealing with severe weather, we know that seconds matter. We should have broken into football programming sooner. We apologize and want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again.
We look forward to regaining the trust of anyone we may have disappointed.
This came after KXAS took criticism on social media for that decision, including from Dallas TV critic Ed Bark (formerly of The Dallas Morning News):
Nothing lights up my Twitter feed like an emergency weather coverage debate — during a Cowboys game. Praise to Fox4, WFAA, CBS11 for non-stop, ad-free reports. NBC5 certainly can be faulted for not at least cutting in during breaks from game. But $$ talks. So they mostly didn't.
— Ed Bark (@unclebarkycom) October 21, 2019
This highlights the challenges local TV stations face during extreme weather, as some of their viewers want very different things. Some viewers track storm information in various ways online and don’t want their TV programming interrupted for that, especially when it’s a live sports event and especially when the information is widely available elsewhere (as it was in this case). But others argue that extreme weather information should be distributed to everyone watching local broadcast TV stations immediately regardless of the impact for sports fans.
Continuing to show a sports event that many care about (bolstered in this case by a local team’s involvement) versus interrupting that for a weather update is a difficult line to walk, and it’s an issue that local stations and local meteorologists frequently have to grapple with. But most of the times we’ve seen this, it’s been from stations erring on the side of immediately going to a weather update and annoying sports fans who miss the game. It’s interesting to see KXAS instead choose to hold off on an on-station weather update, and to see them then taking criticism from those who want to see the weather update.
So while conflicts between weather updates and sports programming are far from new, this one is interesting for the far-from-standard outcome. And that illustrates that continuing to show sports rather than immediately breaking into programming for a weather update carries its own criticisms. In this specific case, those criticisms were strong enough to prompt this unusual apology from KXAS.