Archive for March 25th, 2013

Newspaper weather reports: linkbaity bullshit

I am pissed off with reading crap about the weather.

To take but one example, today, from the hundreds I read every year: this shit from the Daily Telegraph (a ‘respectable’ UK newspaper that, like many newspapers these days, is dying on its feet).

Nobody, in fact, is ‘predicting a heatwave’. Here is the UK meteorological office’s 3-month weather outlook (the basis for the DT story) and nowhere does it say anything about a coming heatwave. It only points out that if this weather pattern were replicated later in the year, with the high pressure a little further south, it would bring hot weather. Not that it will bring hot weather – not any time soon, not even ‘at the end of spring’.

The DT’s bollocks got picked up by the Independent today, another tottering UK newspaper. The scientific and meteorological ignorance and/or wilful fact-twisting, by the writers of both pieces, is staggering.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Weather reports are usually written by newbies and youngsters (my US readers would call them ‘cub reporters’). They haven’t a clue about getting facts right, so they just write nonsense without ever realising that they betray their ignorance with every sentence
  • Most are artsy, humanities grads who know fuck all about maths, science or statistics – and it shows
  • “It’s only the weather”. It’s not an important issue, so nobody thinks it matters to be accurate. Editors shamelessly ham up the stories for maximum linkbait appeal
  • Free-to-read online newspapers are increasingly desperate for traffic. It’s all they’ve got to sell ads against. As their readers desert them, and they get more desperate (and many are now very desperate indeed) their attempts to gain eyeballs by any means become more and more unethical and mendacious. Anything will do, if it might get somebody to click (picture galleries with each pic on a separate URL, utterly misleading ‘headlines’ etc etc)

This infuriates me every day. I CARE about weather. As a gardener, it matters very much to me. But I’m fed an endless diet of sensationalist shit and outright lies masquerading as serious weather reporting.

It also saddens me, because it’s a daily reminder of the parlous state of the western world’s news media. There is no money in news publishing any more, so there are fewer and fewer trustworthy folks doing it. Sure, there’s lots of reporting and ‘news’. But more and more of it is tendentious, unprofessional, dishonest, biassed, paid-for or just downright bad. Finding accurate, reliable, unpartisan reporting – even on something as uncontentious as the weather – is getting rather difficult.

Having said that, nobody seems to care. Which is perhaps the scariest part of all.

PS The Guardian’s at it this morning (Tues 26th) – suggesting that the Met Office is predicting that this weather will continue until the end of April. Of course it isn’t, and it won’t.

Posted on 25th March 2013
Under: Rants | 2 Comments »