A Weather Channel reporter preps for a live shot during the recent storm in New Jersey.

Wayne Perry, Associated Press

Weather people put up with a lot

  • Article by: ROB OWEN
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • November 18, 2012 - 6:30 PM

Q I have some familiarity with unions for actors and TV/radio performers. Every time I see TV weathermen/women standing out in the storms like absolute idiots, I can't believe their unions allow them to be battered about by Mother Nature. Why do networks continue to put their talent in danger? Are there any TV on-air union rules about this?

A How unsafe a TV person is varies from situation to situation, I'd imagine. Just being in the rain or snow is not inherently dangerous in some situations.

Networks/stations send reporters out in this weather because they need video and because it's dramatic and TV news loves drama. Also, some viewers really seem to enjoy it. As for union rules, there are more general dos and don'ts than there are specific rules on weather, according to John Hilsman, executive director of SAG-AFTRA Pittsburgh.

"Our contracts typically have pretty generic safety provisions built into them and what it would amount to would be, if an individual employee felt ordered into a situation where it was not safe, they could refuse that assignment and we could defend them successfully," Hilsman said.

There are no specific provisions for getting out of an assignment if, say, the wind tops 35 knots.

"A great deal of discretion is observed and I think there's some theater involved as well in what you see in dangerous situations. I know from experience when you see someone whipped around from the wind, they're typically two steps away from shelter -- you're just not seeing that on camera. Some people, I'm sure, have done foolish things to get a shot, but people [generally] know what they're doing."

Selling with the news

Q Why is it OK for a news reporter to appear on camera in an obvious Ralph Lauren Polo logo shirt ("NBC Nightly News," July 24), but anytime someone appears on a reality-type show the logos are blurred beyond recognition? Is the news brought to us by Polo, or is there a different set of standards and/or royalty liability for news and entertainment programming?

A It's a good question. I sent it to Erica Masonhall, whom NBC lists as the publicist for "NBC Nightly News," twice over a two-week period and received no response, so I'm left to speculate.

My guess is that the news division doesn't allow paid product placement, so they let it go. Because reality shows do accept paid or trade product placement, they don't want to give anything away for free. So they blur out the logos of companies they do not do business with.

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