There's a flap today about whether the cable nets overhyped Hurricane Irene, as Howard Kurtz says they did. Jamelle Bouie has a good dissent, and Nate Silver provides plenty of data to show that the hype was about right for a hurricane of this size and damage -- although that doesn't speak to Kurtz's point, which is that hurricanes in general are overhyped.
I guess what I'd say about this is that it's almost certain that everything on the cable nets is going to be overhyped. I suppose that's not literally true by definition, but it's close. There are all sorts of interesting and important stories around the nation and internationally, and if the cable nets pick a dozen, or even two dozen, stories to cover then those stories are going to be getting disproportionate coverage compared to their overall importance. Even if they choose really well, based only on some sort of world-historical scale of importance.
What I think this leads to is that questions about how the cable nets spend their time are just the wrong questions to ask. As individuals who want to be informed, the correct questions are about how to go about being informed (hint: TV news has always been a lousy way to be informed about anything other than what the TV news is covering, and it's probably not an efficient way of getting informed about that). Collectively, we can also think about which things are and are not covered, and how we might be able to structure incentives so that people will dig up information about the things we want information about. That's a hard question, and one that's really worth putting some time into. But it's not really related, much, to how CNN fills up all that airtime.
But complaining about the cable nets devoting too much time to weather is sort of like complaining that ESPN spends too much time on highlights; that's what they do! Indeed, it's more or less what they're good at. Granted, I'm happy that they do other things too, at least sometimes, but at least with the weather stuff there's an actual public information component to it. Unlike, say, glorified local crime stories. Anyone who expects more from the cable nets is just sort of missing the point.