Monday, 24 September 2018

No, Jim Cantore did not call Mississippi a land mass

No, Jim Cantore did not call Mississippi a land mass
05 Sep

Jim Cantore wants everyone to know he definitely did not in any way call Mississippi a “land mass.” And neither did The Weather Channel.

I talked to him about it in 2015 for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. But even though the story gets shared every time a tropical system nears, somehow the rumor persists.

Imagine that, a rumor persisting in 2018. But this all started back in 2012, in simpler times, when the air was filled with shouts of YOLO and “Call Me Maybe,” and well-liked celebrities included Honey Boo Boo and Louis C.K.

But now the world and the internet is a trust-no-one-and-nothing situation. Even is wrong about the land mass origin story.

“Set the record straight,” Cantore told a Sun Herald photographer Tuesday as he was preparing for coverage of Tropical Storm Gordon from the Pascagoula beach.

So, again, here is the official record with additional information from my notes that didn’t fit into the original story.

A trifecta

Six years ago, when Hurricane Isaac was cruising toward the Gulf Coast, Cantore was covering the storm like any other — trying to predict where the worst of the storm would hit and going there to report on camera.

“I remember all of a sudden getting all these tweets saying ‘Jimmy, you don’t remember Mississippi? I can’t believe that,’ ” he said in 2015. He had no idea what they were talking about.

Little did he know the internet was already aflame in misplaced outrage.

And who was to blame? Canada, Facebook and Fox News.

On Aug. 26, 2012, a meteorologist on a Canadian weather channel, confusingly called The Weather Network, mistakenly mentioned “the Louisiana and Alabama borders.”

That same day, a Facebook page titled “The Land Mass Between NOLA and Mobile” was created by a woman named Jana Bell, who said the only impetus was a friend’s post — that she did not fact-check.

“I was bored. I was sitting at home, and I was on Facebook as I always was at the time, and I saw a post that caught my eye from a friend,” Bell told “She’s very sarcastic and funny, and the post said ’Hey, Weather Channel, that landmass you’re talking about is called ‘Mississippi.’

“So I was trying to figure out what that meant. Apparently, in describing the path of the hurricane, someone on The Weather Channel mentioned New Orleans, Mobile and the ‘land mass’ in between the two cities. And so I just decided that I would create a page called ‘The Land Mass Between NOLA and Mobile’ as a joke.”

To this day, the page has a picture of our beloved/hated weatherman as its cover photo with a very fake land mass quote.

Fact check?

But after the Facebook page got thousands of “likes” overnight, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith decided to weigh in the next day.

Apparently without doing any fact-checking, Smith attributed the error to The Weather Channel.

Reporting on Isaac from New Orleans, the Mississippi native said, “Between Mobile in Alabama and New Orleans in Louisiana is what The Weather Channel has inexplicably named a land mass. Hello, Weather Channel! That’s called Mississippi. It’s what Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed. Maybe you missed it.”

The Weather Channel didn’t miss it, because Cantore was there, hunkered down in the Armed Forces Retirement Home, watching his crew trying in vain to save all of their equipment from the sudden storm surge, watching retirees be carried up the stairs by Seabees when water poured into the first floor, watching as panic and destruction set in.

He even stayed to cover the damage, a traumatic experience for him and everyone else that lived it, what he called “the hardest time of my life.” There was no power or running water in the thick August heat. He slept in his car, showered with water bottles, shaved his head for the first time, and subsisted on Frosted Mini-Wheats and Cheez Whiz.

“We let everybody know The Weather Channel rode through this in Mississippi, we did not go to New Orleans,” he said. “We were in the worst part of the natural disaster, which was the Mississippi Coast.”

And that’s really how the rumor took off in the first place — how many rumors and fake news and misinformation take off — it confirmed a long-felt notion of injustice.

The Mississippi Coast has always felt, not just forgotten, but wronged by New Orleans getting the bulk of media attention during Katrina. New Orleans was a tragedy too, but the Coast saw entire towns and neighborhoods leveled down to concrete slabs.

That’s why the land mass meme struck a chord. And it’s a pretty good meme to be honest, but let’s attribute it to the right source.

“The Weather Channel absolutely knows where the state of Mississippi was,” Cantore said. “I was very hurt by that and insulted by that. We never forgot Mississippi, nor have I ever forgotten Mississippi.

“That fact should have been researched before it was blamed on us. It would be nice to set the record straight.”



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