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Jan 05
2010

WaPO Weather Page Insanity

Posted by: Erika Fitzpatrick

Erika Fitzpatrick

The Washington Post recently went through a very painful (to its readers) redesign, adding all sorts of brain-addling fonts, reducing sections, and generally seeming to change the layout constantly. Most of the people I have talked to dislike it and seem to feel it's emblematic of deep-seated problems at the paper. Book World is gone; Outlook is a mix of reviews and inside-the-beltway retreads of old ideas; the magazine is an unreadable joke. Whatever; I still subscribe. My beef is with the few sentences that appear in the upper left-hand corner of the print edition's weather page. I can't believe--refuse to believe--an editor is giving these items a second look. Because surely they'd stop them from appearing.

Here is today's "forecast," retyped word for word, since the text doesn't appear online:

"Maybe a small bit warmer Tuesday than Monday, but not by any means warm. Just because it might be a few degrees above freezing, that doesn't make it warm. It will be windy, but not as windy as previously; only about 10 mph today. But gusts could be stronger. Sun, maybe, but clouds, too."

Now, not only is this an example of piss-poor writing--and this is a typical example of what appears in this space daily--it tells me almost nothing about the forecast. I'm not a total weather nerd, but give me a little science behind the forecast, will you? Low pressure, high pressure? Will it remain cold or start getting warmer?

It's like someone is given the choice of using just a few words (work in "warm" and "windy" and "maybe" please!); of a certain length (use words with no more than eight letters please!); and was challenged to write a "forecast." The sentences seem to argue with each other in the most annoying way. And, it's either going to be a bit warmer or slightly warmer; what does "a small bit warmer" mean? Here's just one way to say the same thing:Tuzki Bunny Emoticon

"Tuesday will be a bit warmer than Monday, but still brisk as temperatures remain in the thirties; a slight, though occasionally gusty wind and intermittent cloud cover will make it feel even colder than the expected high of 38 degrees."

Done. One sentence. Was that so hard? I don't blame the writers of this stuff, but I do blame the editors for letting these foolish forecasts appear in my morning paper. They are distracting and make me want to cry (or bang head against the wall like bunny here). Please, oh WaPO, fix it! 

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written by Tim , January 06, 2010

On Sunday there was this bit of brilliant weather forecasting.
"Tonight will be colder".

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written by Samantha , January 06, 2010

Here in Ohio, it seems to be colder than yesterday. But maybe it's just me? It seems like it's going to be windy. But maybe it was only windy this morning, and it will be better later. Surely it CAN'T be as windy as it was yesterday. But you never know about these things. The thermometer outside says 20 degrees. I don't expect it to get any warmer than that. But then again, I could be wrong. I often am.
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written by Erika Fitz , January 06, 2010

Today the "forecast" is that it will be one or two degrees warmer than yesterday. The high for today says 36 degrees. Yesterday's recorded high for D.C. is 37 degrees. Riddle me this: What is the forecast for today?
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written by Patti Lowery, Baltimore , January 06, 2010

Weather? Oh, yeah, by golly buddy, there's gonna be some weather! You betcha! And since it is pretty much what we can call winter, my money's on kinda cold here in DC, but not, say, like it is in Alaska, and aren't we lucky for sure!You betcha! But, you know, us regler folks know how to handle whatever Mother Nature throws at us and we'll be fine. She knows what she's doing. Like any good mother.
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written by Tricia , January 06, 2010

All I keep wondering when I read these is how much this person is getting paid. Argh.
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written by Erika Fitz , January 06, 2010

Yes, Tricia. It's either a whole lot or zero. Hard to say. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by Marc DeFrancis , January 06, 2010

Funny yet sad -- that there's so much turmoil at the Post and this is what they end up producing.

I liked your rewrite, Erika.

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written by Erika Fitz , January 06, 2010

Thanks Marc!
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written by Elizabeth Sheley , January 06, 2010

As I said in an e-mail to Erika --

My new theory: they are trying to piss me off.
Let's take that to a macro level: they are trying to drive away all of their readers so they can fold and be done with it, all the while blaming us for not buying into their increasingly shoddy, irrelevant, weak, and dull product.
They're doing everything they can to chase off their dedicated readers by trying to appeal to a younger demographic THAT WILL NEVER BUY THEIR PAPER NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO!!!
Sorry for shouting. This annoys me beyond quantification.
Anyway, good article. I believe it's futile to tilt at this particular windmill, but there's honor in the effort.

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written by Bigdaddy in Jupiter , January 06, 2010

I, for one, am waiting for a 'shoutout' from God [the big weatherperson in the sky]as to the climate. As I feel my way along the weather wall looking for a door that God will open and let me know if He wants me to do the forecasts in 2012 or before or after or during. Don't you agree?

Hope this guy or gal at WAPO is not turned loose on the crossword puzzles!!!

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written by Elisabeth Null , January 06, 2010

I couldn't agree with you more. The new weather observations (i don't know what to call them) are confusing and do not succeed at either informing or delighting us. This is a poor exercise in "literary journalism."
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written by Erika Fitz , January 06, 2010

Or, we could be getting punk'd.
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written by please keep this anonymous , January 06, 2010

I love this! When I saw this blurb in the Post I was flabbergasted at the third-grade-level writing. I read the blurb to my twenty-something daughter. Her jaw dropped too.
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written by Lisa , January 06, 2010

I know third graders, I work with third graders, and I can assure you, this is no third grade writing...smilies/smiley.gif I would say first grade, at best, but I don't want to insult my first graders!

I'm thinking they must be responding to the old saying that "the weather forecast is always wrong". This one isn't wrong; it couldn't be because it doesn't tell you what the weather forecast actually is.

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written by Heather J. , January 06, 2010

My mom saw this and was so appalled that she read it to me. We're both writers/editors, and we both had a good laugh (and cry) at how terribly this was written. What an embarrassment to the Post!
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written by nita congress , January 06, 2010

and what about that new cheap paper stock the post is using that refuses to fold correctly????
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