"We're going into a situation this weekend that's very scary for a whole lot of people."
That's how Brian Williams opened his Friday night show. He was talking about Hurricane Sandy -- the dreaded "Frankenstorm" whose potentially "unprecendented" nature has led to the media bringing out its hurricane coverage playbook.
The storm is not expected to fully hit the eastern seaboard until after the weekend, but it kicked the election out of the top slot in network lineups on Friday and Saturday, just as Hurricane Isaac did during the Republican National Convention. "Today" sent Al Roker to a pitch-black Florida beach on Friday morning and then to Delaware on Saturday. CNN -- which is calling Sandy a "superstorm" instead of "Frankenstorm" had its team of meteorologists providing regular updates.
Networks sent out the usual releases noting how many correspondents they will have in the field for coverage of the storm. For now, they are keeping their top anchors out of the field, but that could change as soon as the weekend ends.
In every segment, weather reporters stressed how they had "never seen" the combination of factors affecting Sandy before. It is not yet known how dire the level of destruction will be; the media's tone and tenor during hurricane coverage is almost always controversial. On Friday night, the Washington Post's Erik Wemple compiled a list of tips for reporters covering the storm. They included the avoidance of the word "catastrophic" and the differentiation between the uniqueness of the hurricane and its potential destruction.