Media Moves: WEEK Announces New Morning Anchor & Much Ado About Severe Weather Coverage

Oct 3, 2019

Luke Burdsall is the latest addition to the WEEK team.

The Pennsylvania native joins Semone Doughton and Meteorologist Jesse Guinn on 25 News Today starting next Monday, Oct. 7. 

Burdsall comes to the Peoria-Bloomington TV market from Lake Charles, La., where he was an evening anchor at NBC affiliate KPLC. He joined that station in June 2018. 

He's a graduate of Temple University. 

“I’m excited to join the top-rated morning news team in Central Illinois,” Bursall said in a press statement. “Getting to know the people here and delivering the news to them is extremely important to me.”

Burdsall replaces Gina Morss, the veteran news anchor who left her second stint at WEEK in May to take a public relations gig at State Farm. 

Stormy Takes on Stormy Weather

WEEK, WMBD, Heart of Illinois ABC and WYZZ all interrupted reguarly scheduled programming this past Sunday as parts of the TV viewing area came under tornado warnings. 

Nobody was injured by the two EF-0 tornadoes that briefly touched down in Fulton and Logan counties this past week. But the story quickly shifted away from the gloomy weekend weather and onto the program interruptions. A Bears football game and a NASCAR race were cut off by the TV coverage, spurring outrage on social media. 

It's a debate that often crops up when severe weather coverage squeeze out prime-time programs or sporting events - especially when most, but not all, of the viewing area isn't under an immediate threat. 

WMBD/WYZZ Chief Meterologist Chris Yates wrote a lengthy blog entry Tuesday on why local broadcasters do this, and he tackled why he believes some of the alternatives commonly suggested by social media commentators aren't ideal.

The debate was re-ignited Wednesday when Peoria Journal Star scribes Nick Vlahos and Phil Luciano wrote competing takes on the merits of the broadcast policy. Vlahos wrote a column in support of the weather warnings, while Luciano criticized them

Luciano's take in particularly spurred an uproar among local on-the-air personalities: 

I fully understand that weather can turn dangerous. I also fully understand that I can turn the channel. If I want interminable weather forecasts, especially from the hinterlands — “Looks like there’s now a threat of drizzle in Hogsnout!” — I can click my remote from the Bears game and watch another station. I think there’s also that Interweb thingee that might have some info to offer when skies turn dim.

WEEK Chief Meterologist Chuck Collins had this reply for Luciano:

If there's a tornado warning in any part of our 20 county viewing area, we stay on the air until the warning is over. Putnam is just as important as Peoria. Marshall is just as important as McLean, etc. I had no complaints when I was on continuously when Peoria was under a tornado warning Friday night. I certainly had no complaints about our coverage of November 17, 2013. But when a tornado touched down north of the small community of Emden, those who aren't affected yell the loudest. 

Other local TV types also quickly weighed in on social media:

Traditional over-the-air broadcast media doesn't currently have the capability to target severe weather coverage to people in particular impacted areas. And as Yates writes, finding a happy medium by splitting the screen between regularly scheduled programming and severe weather coverage also isn't feasible at this point. 

Local broadcasters are set to continue to all interrupt regular programming for severe weather warnings anywhere within their designated market areas, as required under the terms of the licenses issued by the Federal Communications Commission.

And as the Columbia Journalism Review recently wrote, that practice likely isn't going anywhere, nor are the viewer complaints.