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These reporters stood in the howling winds and rain of Hurricane Ian. But why?

A flying tree branch struck veteran The Weather Channel broadcast meteorologist Jim Cantore during coverage of Hurricane Ian on Wednesday afternoon.Carlos Muñoz

Veteran Weather Channel reporter Jim Cantore was struck by a flying tree branch and brought to his knees. CNN correspondent Randi Kaye pressed herself against the side of a building and shared how painful the rain was as it lashed her. Fox Weather correspondent Robert Ray apologized for struggling to speak amid the whipping winds, as boats rocked in the waves behind him.

In several of the scenarios, a news anchor sitting in a far-away studio encouraged reporters covering Hurricane Ian to get inside, out of harm’s way, and to stay safe.

“I’ve got a helmet on because there is debris flying everywhere,” Ray said from Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday as the Category 4 hurricane made landfall. “There is nothing safe out here. I hope people are hunkered down. ... It’s tough to even speak, and I’m sorry.”

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Live shots of reporters broadcasting from the streets of Florida amid Ian’s intense winds and pounding rain have made the rounds online, prompting many again to question the need for this staple of TV weather coverage.

“I’m glad nobody else is out on the street here,” Kaye said from Punta Gorda on Wednesday. She let out a “whoa” shortly after as a forceful gust knocked palm trees sideways.

Though a national tradition of sorts, seeing fellow humans get battered by the elements had many on social media sounding off against it. Some wondered, where do we draw the line? What do viewers gain?

“Would someone please explain to me, using logic, why it is necessary for news stations to send reporters out in the middle of a hurricane? We already know hurricanes are dangerous; we don’t need to see reporters hanging on for dear life to prove that to us,” one person tweeted.

Some of the most intrepid reporters (and meteorologists, like Cantore) have built careers on chasing storms and enduring the wrath they unleash. They assess the risks and want to be part of the action. Some in the industry argue that dramatic visuals showcase the dangers of storms and the need for viewers to heed warnings and listen to local authorities.

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“It is very hard to do that when you’re showing a static shot that has no context of how conditions of wind and water can affect a human being,” Nora Zimmett, the president of news at the Weather Channel, told the New York Times. “Without the context of a human being in the elements, I can tell you, people still don’t understand why they’re being told to leave.”

Yet many push back against that notion, not wanting to see others potentially get hurt — or even die as a result of covering extreme weather. When the live shots of reporters again popped up on television screens, some journalists and meteorologists were quick to join the debate raging online.

“I’ll say it: It is dangerous and unnecessary for reporters to do news live shots in a hurricane! Too much flying debris. There are live cameras EVERYWHERE now,” tweeted WBAL-TV meteorologist Tony Pann. “In the old days, maybe you needed that shot. Not today.”

Eric Deggans, NPR’s TV critic, tweeted he was dismayed by the number of news channels that had their reporters out during the hurricane, “delivering information already known from other sources, demonstrating what regular folks in the area should NOT be doing.”

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Audience members chimed in that the coverage “wasn’t worth it” and that people are already aware of how threatening hurricanes are. Others said they turn off the channel when those types of broadcasts air.

“Once a reporter gets hit by a piece of roof and washed out to sea, maybe the weather channel will stop making them report from the inside of hurricanes,” one person tweeted.

See more reactions below:


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.