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The Public Eye Chat With ... Dave Price

(CBS/EARLY SHOW)
It's Thursday, and that means it's time for the Public Eye Chat. This week's subject is CBS News' "The Early Show" Weather Anchor and Feature Reporter Dave Price.

Matthew Felling: Key West, Aspen, Outer Banks, Savannah … what's the summer been like, aside from adjusting your watch every two days?

Dave Price: That's the fun of doing what we get to do. We get to tour around the country and visit great places. We get to meet the people who watch the show or meet people who haven't. It's like being an ambassador for "The Early Show."

Matthew Felling:When it comes to TV news, the morning shows have a different relationship with their viewers, more intimate. Do you see that?

Dave Price: It's absolutely more intimate. When you're doing morning TV, you're with your audience as they're getting ready to start their day. You're having breakfast with the people. You have the opportunity to develop more of a relationship with them because they're often watching for a longer period of time. We're not doing a half-hour broadcast. We're not only doing hard news. And we have the ability to build a long-term relationship. Every day we start our days together.

Matthew Felling: Were you a night owl in a prior life?

Dave Price: It's funny. I grew up a night owl. Always woke up late. Never got to class on time in college. But since I've been doing morning news for 11 or 12 years, I've grown to love the morning. The earlier, the better. And to be honest with you, I'd much rather do a program that operates with a little more flexibility than a traditional evening broadcast.

Matthew Felling: You and I probably have different definitions of the word 'morning.' How early do you have to get up?

Dave Price: There's no normal time, because when I'm in New York it's one time, when I'm in Central or Mountain or Pacific it's something else. It varies because of where we broadcast from, and it also varies due to circumstance. Am I in a blizzard somewhere on the side of a road? Am I in Cancun in the middle of a hurricane?

This week, we were in Cancun. The broadcast morning started at three in the morning. We were out in the streets, making sure our broadcast was set technically and passing along up-to-the-minute information; broadcasting through the day for CBS News television; providing news updates for local affiliates; providing radio reports for CBS network radio; doing specialized reports for CBS stations across the country in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. Then at nightfall, I was on the radio all night with Sky News in Great Britain and CBS Up To The Minute up through the night and then the CBS Morning News until we went on the air again with "The Early Show."

Matthew Felling: Meteorology is an advanced science. Do you ever feel hampered by trying to boil down complicated patterns and science for non-weather geeks?

Dave Price: There's always a pressure to boil down all the scientific information to the core information the viewers need and doing that in the time period we're given. Here's the scoop: Somebody tuning in for weather doesn't have the time for a three-hour dissertation. They want to know how the weather is going to impact them, their family, their plans. They don't necessarily want to know about the occluded front that is sitting over a certain area or a temperature inversion. They want to know what it means, practically.

And we as weather people have to focus on is what people know and what matters to them instead of how smart we are.

Matthew Felling: Here in DC, the media catches hell about the 'Inside the Beltway' clique of journalists, many times rightfully so. But is there a clique of weather people across the country that we don't know about?

Dave Price: Absolutely. I love it because any place I go, any market, whenever I run into a weatherperson it's like running into a relative. There are many anchors for each market and even more reporters, but typically there's only one or two weathercasters. So it's a smaller community within the media. Secondly, I'd like to think that we're as a whole a little more relaxed. A little more accessible. And we typically have jobs which – when the situation isn't serious – allow us to show a certain amount of personality and allow us to improvise a little bit more and show a little style.

Matthew Felling: What are some of the biggest stereotypes of weathercasters you wish you could flush out of the viewers' mind?

Dave Price: What do I want to flush out of their mind? Two things. First, that the word 'weathercaster' needs to be preceded by the word 'goofy.' And two, that we have no concern about being accurate, that we're making it up as we go along and it's more about personality.

Matthew Felling: Did Hurricane Katrina change the way you cover hurricanes and storms?

Dave Price: Year after year, we do our best to forecast the big storms. As is the case with anything that's not an exact science, sometimes you're wrong. And that might motivate someone to be a bit gun shy; you don't want to be the boy who cried wolf. What Katrina tought us is there's a reason you get out there early. There's a reason you remind people about the obvious things: listen to the radio, seek shelter, go into the center of your home. We do that for a reason. I'd rather do that and on occasion be wrong then not do it and cost people's lives.

Another difference is the response. Compare Katrina to Hurricane Dean. It was remarkable. People were evacuated inland to shelter. There was a curfew imposed. Hotels preventatively closed everything up, told their guests they couldn't leave their rooms after 8 o'clock. People were taken off the streets and not allowed back on until the storm cleared. That's preparation and response. Katrina taught us that you can't get lax…

I think that over time we've learned a lot more about these storms. We understand more vividly after Katrina how deadly they can be. So we're prone to not sit back and say 'Gee, wow' but to take everything forming in the Caribbean and Atlantic as a threat and deal with them seriously and carefully.

Matthew Felling: The Weather Channel recently made the decision to add the component of global warming to their ongoing discussion. What's it like to have your field so politically charged?

Dave Price: It's remarkable, the amount of attention being paid to weather now. And the fact that it's politically charged isn't a surprise. People are becoming a lot more concerned about our environment, our climate and our future. Actually, I'm surprised all this didn't happen earlier. For long time we made fun of tree huggers and environmentalists and people calling for doom and gloom. But it's very simple – regardless of where you are on the political spectrum and how seriously you take global warming -- we need to take care of our environment. We need to manage pollutants. We need to watch over development.

There is an impact or a consequence to what we do. It's a political issue now, but if there's a positive to the argument going on, it's that it's created awareness. We need to pay a lot more attention to the impact we have as individuals have on the issue.

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