The recent Biggest Blizzard of All Time is now melting away in the northeast. All that remains are the hashtags.
Perhaps you too have noticed that, for the better part of the last decade, every weather event comes with a portmanteau. These are two words with disparate meanings that have been mashed together in some new way. (Tip o’ the snowcap to Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky.) They certainly sound impressive enough:
Observers have observed that this tendency to reduce a meteorological event to some silly made-up word took off with Twitter, which only allows 140 words to create fear and panic. It also allows for hashtags like #blizzardof2015 that help assure your post isn’t lost in the storm of the network. …
The Weather Channel has gotten a lot of grief for naming every storm that comes across the ocean. It’s clearly a marketing gimmick that gives some form and urgency to the network’s coverage.
For us in the real news business, the concern is usually that you will overstate the situation. If you dub any storm “the blizzard of 2015” before it hits you are guessing it will be a blizzard and that it will be the worst of the year, right? The cumulative effect of such alarmist phraseology is that readers become deadened to it. It’s like the boy who cried wolf; will readers listen the next time you scream #winterzilla?
One caveat. There may be times when it makes sense to use some prevailing hashtag to highlight your work and original reporting. If everyone is calling it #blizzardof2015, there is probably no harm in using that hashtag yourself. Just don’t overdo it.