Weather and the media

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Weather and the media

Postby Steve Flitton » 2012 Feb 23, 00:02

Hello to all members
Once again I see in today's Daily Express the usual over-the-top predictions for our weather during the next few days.
I'm referring, of course to the very mild conditions predicted for tomorrow (23rd) when temperatures are expected to widely reach between 14 to 16C. With exception it could touch 17 or 18C. By Friday it is likely that the air-stream will be slightly cooler.
However I pick up a copy of the Express and on the top of the front page it reads "68F, it's going to be hotter than Hawaii this week". On page 9 it reads "Britain will warm up so much over the next few days it could get hotter than Hawaii" and "The mercury is set to nudge 68F ( 20C) tomorrow, which will make it one of the warmest February days for decades". The first thing that comes to mind is where do they get a prediction of 20C from because I've certainly not seen it anywhere. Also why are they saying "it will warm up so much over the next few days" when clearly only tomorrow (Thurs) is expected to be very mild. Why, oh why are they using the phrase "hotter", even if it did reach 20C it certainly wouldn't feel hot. During the recent cold spell they said it was "colder than the north pole". This is just exceptionally bad journalism when clearly they don't get their facts right and simply print this nonsense to sell newspapers. By-the-way, the forecast temperature for Honolulu tomorrow is 26C so saying that Britain could get hotter than Hawaii is just a meaningless statement. I've also noticed the same style of reporting in some of the other tabloids recently.
When are they going to stop printing this juvenile rubbish? They're doing nothing more than misleading the general public because the majority of it simply isn't true. Unless you employ someone with a meteorological background to write a piece or a column occasionally then I'm afraid it's likely to continue. To find a good example of when things do get published correctly we only have to look at the excellent articles provided by fellow member Philip Eden. I know Philip has been cynical of the media himself and I've read his arguments against such inaccurate reporting but nothing ever changes.

Steve Flitton
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Re: Weather and the media

Postby Len Wood » 2012 Feb 23, 10:25

Nothing ever changes because
(1) Sensationalism seems to sell newspapers
(2) They are never brought to account for these silly forecasts
(3) The readership soon forgets the headlines and does not seem to care or take it seriously.
Len

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Altitude 83 m asl
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Re: Weather and the media

Postby Martin Rowley » 2012 Feb 23, 10:27

Gt Gaddesden wrote: I've also noticed the same style of reporting in some of the other tabloids recently.
When are they going to stop printing this juvenile rubbish? They're doing nothing more than misleading the general public because the majority of it simply isn't true. Unless you employ someone with a meteorological background to write a piece or a column occasionally then I'm afraid it's likely to continue. To find a good example of when things do get published correctly we only have to look at the excellent articles provided by fellow member Philip Eden. I know Philip has been cynical of the media himself and I've read his arguments against such inaccurate reporting but nothing ever changes.

Steve Flitton


... I think many of us would agree Steve, though it's not a new phenomenon. I've had two spells when I had to interact with the printed media (broadcast media tend not to be so problematic IMV, though not perfect): one was 1985-1988 at London Weather Centre (including the '87 October Storm episode) and 1997-2003 at Bracknell / NMC, when we had a 'National' Forecasting bench (now Public Weather Service). The latter period of course included not only the highest recorded temperature episode in August 2003 but also the excessive rainfall in autumn 2000. For all of these events & many more, I had the dubious pleasure of being on-duty for some of the time.
One specific run-in with the press concerned the Uckfield flooding (amongst other places that period) 11th/12th October, 2000: I was on duty both the previous day, and the following day, so we were involved with issuing the appropriate warnings and coping with the media interest thereafter. Fortunately, we (the Met Office) had issued sufficiently 'punchy' warnings beforehand such that all the appropriate agencies were aware that something 'out of the ordinary' was going to happen, so the newspapers weren't having any luck with attacks on 'tea-drinking civil servants asleep on the job' stories: so they tried another tack ... at least one of them did: The 'Sun' reporter came on and after the usual discussion about amounts of rain, context in historical terms, warnings in force, forecast for the next few days etc., she tried to 'encourage' me to say something along the lines of .... " It's been ******* awful in Uckfield ", where the stars include an element that rhymes with the first syllable of the town's name. Now as anyone who knows me well will realise ... they picked precisely the wrong person for that little game. Anyone less likely to utter even the mildest of expletives you'd be hard to find. I just said, deliberately 'po-faced' ... " I think the situation is a bit too serious for flippant comment of that sort ...": No doubt if I had succumbed, it would have made banner headlines ... a 'Schafernaker' moment perhaps?
It would be wrong to tar all reporters with the same brush - the tragic killing of the Sunday Times reporter in Syria illustrates that there are some good people out there burrowing around trying to let us all know what's going on; but my experience has led me to be most distrustful of *all* science reporting in the so-called 'popular' press. That's why I don't buy into all the chest-beating going on at the moment over the Leveson Enquiry somehow leading the way to 'gagging' the press. There is a lot of *good* journalism, but there is even more (in my opinion) *bad/misleading* journalism and the latter, unfortunately, is what often sticks in the public's collective mind.

Martin.
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Re: Weather and the media

Postby PhilipEden » 2012 Feb 23, 10:49

I used to get annoyed about such things, but now, like Len, I'm just cynical. After all, the redtops really are just comics. What is rather worrying is that the broadsheets, which by and large have a reasonably good record at accurate reporting of weather events, seem to be going down the same route. The problem is the relentless decline in circulation which affects all newspapers. The newspaper industry has major structural problems, resulting from changes in the way the general public access news, and none of them has found the right solution ... maybe it doesn't exist.

In the (relative) privacy of this forum I can also say that the quality of sub-editing has declined sharply over the last 25 years. Quite often I have had to complain about, for example, a 2 degC temperature difference being translated into a 35.6 degF temperature difference. Now, I'm afraid, I just don't care.

Philip
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Re: Weather and the media

Postby PhilipEden » 2012 Feb 23, 10:55

By the way, many newspapers now have a Reader's Editor, to whom factual errors may be taken (though I don't think the Express has one). Most of them are accessible by e-mail, so it should be relatively easy. This is where to take simple errors of fact, like the forecast temperature for Hawaii. In fact the Express's piece was lifted - almost word for word - from the previous day's Sun. Including another error ... that the UK's all-time February record occurred in 1988. It was 1998.

Philip
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Re: Weather and the media

Postby Ken Cook » 2012 Feb 23, 10:58

Gt Gaddesden wrote:Hello to all members
Once again I see in today's Daily Express the usual over-the-top predictions for our weather during the next few days <snip>
When are they going to stop printing this juvenile rubbish? They're doing nothing more than misleading the general public because the majority of it simply isn't true <snip>

Steve Flitton


Hi, Steve,
Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story!
It sells newspapers to Joe Public and it must be right because it's in the 'paper.
Brightening up here, could touch 20C in the Sun.
Ken
Copley, Teesdale
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Re: Weather and the media

Postby Peter Wright » 2012 Feb 23, 14:09

This is an excellent thread. It's good that we can get a good rounded view of the problem from people who have had personal experience of relating to the press.
Edgmond, Nr Newport Shropshire. N Shropshire Plain, rain shadow of the Welsh hills, sheltered from all snow directions, exposed to Cheshire Gap showers, otherwise similar to rest of inland England.
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