This book is the product of another 'carpetbagger' - someone migrating temporarily into the world of storm chasing, doing his research, putting down his thoughts on what he's seen, and then packing his bags, off onto some new topic to write about and sell yet another book.
It dawned on me during this conversation with the person from AP that essentially all of the media reporting on tornadoes and science is being done virtually exclusively by carpetbaggers. The inaccuracy and lack of substance in media reporting is a direct result of the reporter's profound ignorance about the scientific subject. The people who actually know something about the subject matter typically are not those doing the media pieces. Reporters and documentary production teams roll in to do interviews either because of some recent events that call attention to tornadoes and tornado science, or because someone decided it was time to do another piece about the topic. Whatever the motivation, it's only a happy accident when they ask a meaningful question or know enough to interview someone who actually knows something and the interviewee manages to convey something accurately and clearly in his/her allotted soundbite(s) within the piece. That tidbit of reasonable information, however, will be overwhelmed by a veritable tsunami of misinformation in other pieces, or even by other content in the same piece containing the lonely morsel of accurate, meaningful information. How can the public tell the difference? Short answer -- they mostly can't.
Carpetbaggers frequently focus their interviews on "names" in the field, some of whom may be in management and who may not actually know much about the subject. Interviewees always have personal biases in how they see things (that includes me, of course!), so the tidbit that gets quoted from them may not be representative of how many members of the profession feel about any given topic. Given that everyone is biased, how does one distill the truth from all the media pieces? Seeking the truth is about getting information from many sources, not just the "names" in the field, or what the media provide. But most people don't seem to be all that interested in tornadoes (for example) -- except possibly when it's on the evening news or when it affects them personally. For many, it's evidently too much trouble to spend time searching for the truth by doing some serious study of the topic. So they view the garbage that spews out of the media and think they learned something, when most of what they received was superficial crap, much of it actually misinformation.
The media reporters are almost unanimous in their contempt for their audience. "Dumb it down to the 3rd grade level, please!" If all the public ever gets is 3rd grade content, then this contempt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. No one seems interested in challenging their viewers to think, apparently because they believe they're incapable of it. That's not what the media are about, it seems.
The sad fact is that if media pieces are the primary process by which most people learn about tornadoes and tornado science (or any other technical topic), then any attempt to inform them via this pathway is doomed. There's no reason to attempt to interject your knowledge and experience into the torrent of media content, because it will end up being diluted beyond recognition. People who study and forecast tornadoes aren't writing these media pieces -- they're quite fully occupied with doing that work, which absorbs most of their attention (apart from whatever time they might devote to their families and hobbies). And the media moguls aren't very interested in seeking their contributions, anyway. What does a scientist know about journalism?
As luck would have it, I was a budding journalist in high school. And my journalism mentor made it very clear to me that if you do an interview, you have to work very hard to get your facts straight. You don't write the story until after you've done the research. And you should ask your source(s) to check your story for factual content before you run it! This standard of journalism seems to have become "old-fashioned" and mostly "out of style" today. The superficiality and outright misinformation pouring from the media on a daily basis is an inevitable result of this carpetbagging. Today's style of journalism makes this inescapable, so I don't do interviews any more!