By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 08, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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There's a myth out there, mostly among older viewers, who seem to think that TV weather was somehow more accurate back in the day when forecasts were delivered by former bandleaders and puppets assisted in the delivery.

That myth stems more from nostalgia than reality. The technology has advanced dramatically, and the folks who deliver the weather have far more training than their predecessors.

Frankly, our memories are not a good measure of how TV used to be.

The problem with TV weather coverage today is that it doesn't come from the weathercasters -- but from the folks who run the newsrooms and mobilize their troops for Stormageddon far in advance of a single snowflake. That's a separate issue that provides a lot of us with plenty of entertainment.

As for the actual weather forecasting, let's take this week's snowstorm, a normal if substantial Wisconsin snowfall that was timed to be at its worst during Thursday's afternoon drive home from work.

Forty-eight hours earlier, in Tuesday's 6 p.m. newscast, Channel 4's John Malan was calling it a "typical situation where some folks are gonna see a lot of snow, and some folks will just see a little bit of snow and other folks will see somewhere in between that."

Also in the 6 p.m. hour, Channel 6's Vince Condella pointed to Lake Michigan as "a big contributor to our next weather system," calling for an inch or two Wednesday night and then the lake contributing "6-10 within 10 miles of Lake Michigan."

In Tuesday's 5 p.m. newscast, Channel 12's Mark Baden predicted  "a mess across most of southeastern Wisconsin and a pretty wide accumulation range of 2 to 6 inches." He was a bit more conservative than the others.

Mark McGinnis was on Channel 58's 5 p.m. newscast anticipating "some interesting snow.

"Right now, it really looks like the bulls-eye, Milwaukee County, Racine-Kenosha County and really right along the lake, too, because we're going to have some lake-enhanced snow to talk about, as well."

The numbers were honed a bit Wednesday night, and while it seemed that the "lake enhancement" everybody called for came a bit later than expected and the heaviest snow was a bit farther north than predicted, overall, we got the snow we were expecting.

You can look at the screen-grabs of the Tuesday evening forecasts, and then compare them to the totals measured by Friday morning. I don't think the precise inches are as important as the broader prediction for the huge swath of southeast Wisconsin that makes up the Milwaukee TV market.

The Jay Leno mess: With a flurry of activity this week at NBC, it seems pretty clear that Jay Leno's prime-time show is dead. It'll disappear next month for a planned Winter Olympics hiatus. But it's not likely to return, at least as a nightly show at 9 p.m.

Still unclear is what happens next. Leno could move to 7 p.m., which was an early suggestion for the show, but that doesn't seem likely. He could move back to his old 10:35 p.m. slot, for either an hour or a half-hour show.

That of course raises questions about the fate of Conan O'Brien as host of "The Tonight Show."

Here's Leno's Thursday night monologue, which touches on the whole mess.

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.