Echoes of the Mellish Meter at WXIA-TV (The Wizometer!) and WGCL-TV

This was posted September 10, 2010 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Both WGCL-TV and WXIA-TV recently started measuring the weather each day using a single numerical scale. For instance, both stations ranked today a 7.

On August 30, the CBS affiliate WGCL began what news director Steve Schwaid calls a “clean” and “straightforward” one-to-ten scale. “Ours,” he said, “is handled in a very professional, classy, high-end manner.”

In contrast, the NBC affiliate WXIA this past Tuesday cheekily debuted its Wiz-o-meter – as in the Weather Information Zone. This is the same station which has a “Commuter Dude” and an investigative team dubbed the C.I.A. (Center for Investigative Action.). And like “This is Spinal Tap,” their scale goes to 11.

WXIA news director Ellen Crooke acknowledges the cutesy nature of “Wiz” in the name. “It makes people laugh,” she said. “It’s kind of funny. It’s memorable. In my 24 years in the business, I’ve never seen people react this way” to a weather presentation. She also said the new iPhone app version of the Wiz is doing really well. She also said the station also provides plenty of in-depth weather coverage as well.

This measurement system is nothing new in Atlanta.

Condace Pressley, assistant program director at AM 750 and now 95.5FM News/Talk WSB, said the station has been doing the Mellish Meter for at least 12 years. “Maybe they’ve only now discovered us on FM,” Pressley joked.

Kirk Melhuish, the WSB Radio meteorologist, said the Mellish Meter was not his idea but he’s unclear who actually came up with it.

“Funny thing is I’ve heard at least three people given (or taking) credit for it. LOL,” he wrote in an email.

“I do get to decide the number so that’s something!” he added. “And yes, I am surprised it took this long to get a copy cat. Imitation and flattery as they say.  Too funny!”

Melhuish is aware the limitations of spouting a single number. “I have to take into account an entire day and an entire area,” he said in a follow-up phone interview. He gets phone calls and emails all the time complaining that his number is too high or too low.

And he says he rarely gives out a one or a 10. (If it’s anywhere close to a one, he said that probably means a tornado or major storm so he doesn’t use the meter then. “I drop the cutesy,” he noted.)

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