Fox Carolina switches to ‘First Alert Weather’ branding

Gray Television’s WHNS in Greenville, North Carolina, which is known on-air as “Fox Carolina,” has updated its weather branding to use the “First Alert” banner along with “alert days.”

“First Alert Weather” has also been rolling out to select CBS-owned stations’ across the country, mainly in markets where it doesn’t conflict with another station using it (for example, WBZ in Boston couldn’t use it because NBC’s WBTS uses the branding already). Gray Television holds the trademark to the name “First Alert Weather,” according to U.S. government records. 

WHNS is also using the growing trend of having its team be able to declare a certain day as a “First Alert Weather Day.”

“If the (Fox Carolina) team calls a First Alert Weather Day, it means the weather on that day will be significant and they’re letting you know first. A First Alert Weather Day could be due to heavy rain, extreme winds, dangerous heat or cold and other conditions that will impact you,” reads an announcement on the station’s website.

More and more stations and station groups are jumping on board with this type of approach, though the exact wording can vary — some use the word “alert” in some way, while other phrasing can include variations and combinations of “warning,” “weather,” “severe” and other words or phrases.

Basically, the practice is a branding approach that most stations say helps to make the public aware of potentially dangerous weather in the area, but some stations have been called out for being overly dramatic, alarmist or fear-mongering.

In many cases, when such a day is declared, the name is used extensively on air, including in show opens and stingers, weather graphics and on-set video walls as well as repeated multiple times by anchors and forecasters, which can help create consistency across reporting.

Weather remains a highly valuable staple of local news because it’s typically very relevant to most viewers and, almost by definition, has to be viewed in realtime. 

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Some stations also use the First Alert branding without the “day” approach. 

Sinclair Broadcast Group gained considerable attention in 2019 when it was revealed that a similar effort, the “Code Red Day” mandate, would be activated by corporate executives — and not local meteorologists with the best knowledge of potential weather conditions. 

A forecaster at WICS in Springfield, Illinois, even ranted against the practice on air. Eventually, the station announced it would drop the name in favor of “Weather Warn.”

WHNS, meanwhile, appears to be letting its local weather team make the call on local “alert days,” as noted in its announcement.

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