I sent the following letter off this morning to the executives at Discovery Channel, Executive Producer of Storm Chasers, Ronan Nagle, and posted it on Facebook in multiple places. I have little faith that anything will come of this, but I think it's important to get it out there.
“Discovery's leadership is dedicated to upholding the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.”
This is a direct quote from www.discoverychannel.com. In my experience, the people who represent the Discovery Channel brand are not upholding these standards.
As a fellow storm chaser and photographer, I understand Sean Casey's passion for finding and filming the best storm, for getting the perfect shot. I can even understand bending a few rules to ensure that he is in the best possible position to get that shot.
I do not, however, understand how he and his Discovery Channel film crew can so recklessly endanger the lives of other chasers and local motorists. In the past I've heard stories of irresponsible behavior on the part of Casey and his crew. This also is not the first time I have witnessed them practicing hazardous behavior. In fact, Casey and the Discovery Channel personnel that accompany him are now well known in the chase community as a collection of menaces who show no regard for human life.
May 30, 2011 was something different, though. Something much worse.
In the car with me were three other chasers, a total of 40 years of chasing experience between us. With limited road options, we found ourselves fleeing deadly hail up to the size of grapefruits. The TIV and Discovery crew were driving very slowly on a two lane road and refused to let us pass them. The Discovery crew drove for an extended period of time on the wrong side of the road, filming the TIV and completely blocking our ability to pass. When they decided to fall in behind the TIV and I attempted to pass them, they sped up and aggressively blocked us. Finally, I was able to get around one of the Discovery film crew vehicles. Immediately, the driver flew up behind us flashing his high beams. He passed me again, cut me off in doing so, and slammed on the brakes so that they were doing 20-30 MPH below the speed limit.
At a major intersection in O'Neill, Nebraska, the Discovery crew stopped and intentionally blocked the road so no one could get past them. I was forced to drive off the road on their right to get east, so I could continue to try to get away from the hail. Again they raced up behind me flashing their high beams. This time, they were so focused on our car that one of the Discovery crew Suburbans nearly crashed into the TIV.
Does Discovery actually advocate this outrageous, unacceptable, and downright dangerous behavior? Regardless of the answer, you must put a stop to it. There should never be a shot that is so important that the lives of the people around the Discovery Channel crew are put at risk. There should never be so much blind recklessness that the dangers to others are totally discounted. Will you not do anything until someone is killed as a direct result of Sean Casey and the Discovery Channel’s dangerous and maniacal behavior?
I understand that there is inherent risk in storm chasing. That risk was significantly compounded for us on the cited day by Sean Casey and the Discovery Channel film crew. While they have the luxury of driving a tank-like-vehicle and trucks with custom hail protection, we are not so fortunate. Their actions were directly responsible for hail damage sustained by our vehicle. We were lucky, this time, that it wasn't much worse.
I urge Discovery Channel to take a close look at your mission statement and your claims to “uphold the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct.” Is it truly your policy to adhere to these standards, or are these just empty words intended to portray an image you have no honest interest in ‘upholding?’ By employing individuals who do not honor that mission statement, it speaks volumes about the network as a whole. There is nothing professional or ethical about behavior of this kind. Please do not condone it by allowing it to continue.
Thank you for your crucial attention to this matter.