Springtime can lead to some volatile weather across the country, especially in the South. It can lead to breaking news coverage featuring cut-ins during network programming. It happened this past weekend in Mississippi, where one meteorologist got our attention by snapping his fingers at someone off-camera. It happened again during The Masters on Sunday, and in this case, it led to viewer anger and in some extreme cases, death threats.

Atlanta meteorologist Ella Dorsey (who made it into one of our editions of This Week in Hot Takes) received the ire of viewers when she broke into live coverage of the final round of the Masters on Sunday. She cut into the CBS network for a tornado warning with a double box so viewers could watch Tiger Woods on his historic run to win his fifth green jacket, but it still didn’t satisfy people:

The cut-ins led some people to issue death threats to Dorsey, and she responded on Twitter.

It’s a fine line that stations have to walk, determining whether an alert is so important they need to break into programming or run a crawl on the bottom of the screen. WGCL thought it was necessary to break into the Masters and risk incurring the wrath of viewers. But sending Dorsey death threats is not right. She’s providing a public service and yes, sometimes the timing of the cut-ins are bad, but you’d rather go with safety here.

In Washington, D.C., CBS affiliate WUSA also broke into programming, but it was during the taped replay of the Masters. High winds and rains left residents without power and there was a tornado warning in a D.C. suburb.

Meteorologist Topper Shutt explained why he broke into the Masters:

“I will say this, had the Masters been live, we would have likely addressed it with a crawl across the screen. But it wasn’t live and happening in our viewing area, we went live and the policy is to stay live until the warning expires or is cancelled and it was canceled two minutes after it expired.”

You may notice that Shutt tagged Michael Wilbon in his tweet. Why did he do that? Apparently Wilbon was watching the Masters on tape delay and wasn’t happy over the cut-in.

And his tweet wasn’t seen as kind:

Viewers were not happy over weather coverage, but if a tornado hit without any live warnings, there would be outrage the other way. Yes, we have phones with emergency alerts, but how many people have actually turned those alerts off? So for local stations, this is still the best way to reach their audiences to provide a public service.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.