The Slatest

The Only Place the National Weather Service Is Winning Its War Against “Nemo”

People battle wind, rain and sleet in the early hours of a major winter storm on Friday in New York City

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As anyone in the Northeast has probably noticed by now, there’s a massive winter storm bearing down on the region at the moment. What exactly you’re calling that storm, however, probably depends on how you’re tracking the nor’easter.

The Weather Channel announced last fall that it had decided to begin naming noteworthy winter storm systems, and the current blizzard is providing its most high-profile chance to do so. As a result, those who visit are greeted with headlines dominated by “Winter Storm Nemo.” Meanwhile, those who opt for are warned of a regular old “major winter storm.” The reason: Federal forecasters are refusing to play along with what is widely seen as the cable channel’s PR power play. The Media Decoder explains:

[T]he National Weather Service … has advised its forecasters not to follow the channel’s lead. … [W]eather experts continue to roll their eyes at the channel’s storm-naming, just as they did when it was announced last November. It’s widely viewed as a marketing ploy, even though some skeptics admit that the names help raise awareness about storms. On Thursday, a National Weather Service spokesman reiterated, “We never have, nor do we have any plans to consider naming winter storms.”

So far, a quick scan of of the Web suggests that the feds are largely losing the battle with the Weather Channel. The one place where you can’t find Nemo (see what I did there?), however, is when you visit the website of most major media outlets. You’ll see no mention of the word “Nemo” on the home pages or in the site-leading stories on the storm currently running in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, or Reuters. Likewise, the websites of the major TV news networks—ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, Fox News and CNN—are also all Nemo-free.

Of course, it’s a different story on less staid news outlets, on Facebook, and on Twitter, where #nemo is currently trending nationally and even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other government officials have adopted the moniker:

Hey, when every character counts, “nemo” is going to trump “major winter storm” every time.

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