Thursday, May 05, 2011

5 MAY 11: Your Local Femme-Cast

So I was dialing around the TV network evening newscasts Wednesday night, when I stumbled upon something I'd never heard before. Before you get the wrong idea - the Usama bin-Laden memorial plates with holes through them are NOT on sale yet. Maybe in a couple of weeks....

My scanning of the dial led me to WTVM's "Weather Now" - and of all things, a woman was reading the Columbus forecast. Are they forcing Katherine Kington to work seven days a week?

No wait - this was a different female voice. In fact, it was a computerized voice from NOAA Weather Radio. Well, at least it sounded female to me. Critics might say I'm guilty of sexist hearing.

For as long as I've tuned to Weather Now, the NOAA voices sounded like men. They're not real men, of course. The National Weather Service went away from using taped messages from human beings several years ago -- and sadly, that's led to the use of "auto-tune" in more and more songs on radio.

Some online checking revealed the National Weather Service developed a female computer voice as it developed a male one. In fact, there are now three voices used by the Peachtree City weather office -- named Donna, Paul and Tom. So Wednesday night's use of the female was a bit like an old pop song: "Who's Watching Donna Now?"

(For some reason, the computer voices at the Birmingham and Orlando weather offices sound a lot more like real people. I'm not sure why that is. You'd think someone from The Weather Channel would be willing to help out in Peachtree City.)

So why did Donna debut (as far as I know) Wednesday night? I sought help via e-mail from a very familiar Columbus weather voice - a real one that's now off the air:


If you checked it out, then you certainly are aware that the Voices of NOAA are all computer generated. But the sudden appearance if "Donna" emanating from the Peachtree City office is just as puzzling to me. Who knows, maybe someone complained that the use of only a male voice was sexist. Or, perhaps after the recent devastating outbreaks a NWS official decided that listeners would be spooked when the next wave of severe thunderstorms strikes, and a female voice might have a calming effect.

More likely someone in Peachtree City just decided the time was right for something different....

Kurt Schmitz

Come to think of it, this weekend IS Mother's Day....

Don't get me wrong - I don't object to "Donna" reciting the weather forecast at all. I have no problem with EOE policies. In this case, that stands for Equal Opportunity in Electronics.

I'm old enough to remember when the idea of female weathercasters was controversial. I lived in Kansas City when Cheryll Jones broke that barrier on local television - well before Mitzi Oxford did it in Columbus. Cynics back then called it a ratings gimmick. But now, some men openly are disappointed when The Weather Channel does NOT have a woman on the air.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: What is Kurt Schmitz doing these days? We'll have his answer Friday.)

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of television, Olivia LaBorde confirmed to your blog Wednesday she's left WLTZ. LaBorde is taking a new job at a TV station in New Orleans -- so instead of naming the "Hottest TV Reporter" in Columbus in January, maybe I should have written Steamiest.

Meanwhile, what's this I'm hearing about WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" possibly losing midday host Vicky James? She's reportedly moving to South Carolina - and if ever a radio station needed a "Foxie Lady," it's that one.

-> Why did one Columbus location suddenly suspend regular live poker tournaments? Check what we learned at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: There's still no sign of the Ice Rink's polar bear mascot. But a reader wants to report another disappearance....

Have you noticed the Wendy's on Manchester near Armour Rd had closed? I sure will miss their late night burgers..

Yes, I did notice that. In fact, it shut down a few months ago -- yet for some reason, there was no big "quitting business" sale to match J.D. Kinders Furniture down the street.

Several buildings around Columbus which used to hold fast-food restaurants sit vacant these days. The downtown KFC at Ninth and Veterans Parkway has been empty for months. When Chester's Barbecue can run a national chain out of the neighborhood, it truly deserves those awards.

We slow-roasted over a few news items Wednesday as well....

+ Corporal Katina Williams was named the Columbus Police Department Officer of the Year. Williams told WLTZ her detective work cleared many open cases, led to several stolen weapons and "got some pretty bad guys off the street." As for the REALLY bad guys - well, District Attorney Julia Slater still is trying to satisfy some people.

+ Emergency crews blocked all lanes of Interstate 185 in Harris County for a while, after a tractor-trailer overturned. There was concern batteries or battery acid might have spilled onto the highway, but the big rig turned out to be empty. So the lack of batteries started out as a negative, but ended as a positive.

(Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley says the truck driver lost control because he "choked on coffee." Did he finally realize how expensive one cup is nowadays?)

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Pep Boys is in talks to take over Alabama-based Big 10 tire stores. This buyout really needs to happen, since the Big Ten Conference is about to have 12 teams.

+ WXTX revealed the Cott Beverage labs on Tenth Avenue produces the concentrate used in the "store brand" sodas of Publix, Kmart and Save-A-Lot. So why is Save-A-Lot's "Bubba Cola" usually the least expensive? Is it the most watered-down?

+ The Alabama House passed a bill protecting grocery stores and restaurants from obesity lawsuits. If you gain a lot of weight, you could not go to court and blame restaurants for it -- even though walking up and down the courthouse stairs would provide much-needed exercise.

+ Phenix City native Tim Hudson pitched a one-hit shutout, as Atlanta swept a baseball doubleheader with Milwaukee. The only Milwaukee hit was a double by Rickie Weeks - who may have forever doomed any plans to run for Muscogee County Coroner.

+ Chicago shelled the Atlanta Hawks 86-73 to even their playoff series at one game each. Chicago radio announcer Bill Wennington declared the Hawks should be sent home "with their diaper on." Now hold on here! I thought Derrick Rose was the young phenom, not Joe Johnson.

+ Instant Message to anyone planning to celebrate all of today's big events: I suggest taking part in the National Day of Prayer first. While I've never done it, I'd imagine praying is a lot more difficult after you down four or five Coronas to mark Cinco de Mayo.

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