TV meteorologist responds to viewer death threats she received after interrupting Masters final round
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
April 18, 2019, 7:11:47 AM EDT
As the highly anticipated final round of the 2019 Masters tournament unfolded on Sunday in Augusta, Georgia, millions of golf fans tuned in to watch the drama unfold on television.
But while the tournament was winding down, a major severe weather outbreak continued across the southern United States, before eventually extending into the Northeast. The weather contributed to Masters officials starting the final round earlier than normal on TV due to the threat.
Because of the dangerous nature of the storms, which had already produced deadly tornadoes on Saturday, some news stations made the vital decision to interrupt the Masters broadcast to inform the public about the threat.
This included CBS46 in Atlanta, which went to a split screen to show the Masters and cover the storms. Meteorologist Ella Dorsey came on the air for about 10-12 minutes to share information about a tornado warning in Gwinnett County. However, when she went off the air, Dorsey and several colleagues were inundated with many hateful and angry responses on social media and via email for the decision to broadcast alongside the tournament.
Dorsey said on Twitter that some users had sent her death threats.
To everyone sending me death threats right now: you wouldn’t be saying a damn thing if a tornado was ravaging your home this afternoon. Lives are more important than 5 minutes of golf. I will continue to repeat that if and when we cut into programming to keep people safe.— Ella Dorsey (@Ella__Dorsey) April 14, 2019
She also addressed the ugly comments on air on a Sunday night newscast and explained the rationale for the station's decision.
"This is not a plan that we stumbled upon," Dorsey said. "This was something that we had in place days in advance. We knew there was going to be severe weather so we decided that if there were tornado warnings, we would do a double box so that we could keep you updated with the current weather situation, but [also] that a lot of people that wanted to see the final round of the Masters could still watch that final round."
Many came to Dorsey’s defense on Twitter, calling out those who didn't understand the severity of the situation.
For all of you haters going after @Ella__Dorsey, here’s what happened in Troy, Alabama, this morning.— Shirley Burton (@oddballextreme) April 14, 2019
If this happened to you while The Masters were going on, you’d be changing your tune in a heartbeat. https://t.co/VfkBOmuRI6
Federal Communication Commission guidelines “require broadcasters and cable operators to make local emergency information accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to persons who are blind or have visual disabilities.”
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This includes immediate weather situations such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, heavy snow and warnings and watches of impending weather changes.
It wasn’t just in the Atlanta area that the Masters was interrupted for local weather information. In Washington, D.C., sports commentator Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption,” complained on Twitter about WUSA9’s decision to alert viewers of a tornado warning during a replay of The Masters broadcast Sunday evening. He blasted the decision as a "self-indulgent endless weather interruption."
Channel 9 in DC, the CBS affiliate: you people couldn't wait until Tiger putted out (on replay granted) before you took HIM off the screen for your self-indulgent endless weather interruption? Really?!?!? A pox on your producers, probably some of my dear friends!— Michael Wilbon (@RealMikeWilbon) April 14, 2019
WUSA9 Chief Meteorologist Topper Shutt explained the station’s decision to cut away. Shutt said that If the tournament had been live and not a replay at the time, the station may have simply used a news crawl at the bottom of the screen to highlight the weather alerts.
"We don't take it lightly, and we also don't take protecting life and property lightly either," Shutt said.
Many took to Twitter to disagree with Wilbon's assessment of the situation.
People died this weekend.— Bree Smith (@NC5_BreeSmith) April 14, 2019
Check your priorities.
Tornado warning >>> golf, or any other sport or TV show. People's lives are more important than entertainment. Period. This is shameful. https://t.co/eTEp57FiK2— Becky DePodwin (@wx_becks) April 15, 2019
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