Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/389

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THE WEATHER VS. THE NEWSPAPERS.

THE WEATHER VS. THE NEWSPAPERS.
By HARVEY MAITLAND WATTS.

THE PHILADELPHIA 'PRESS.'

"APRIL 4, 1668. I did attend the Duke of York and he did carry us to the King's lodgings; but he was asleep in his closet; so we stayed in the green-room; where the Duke of York did tell us what rule he had of knowing the weather; and did now tell us we should have rain before to-morrow (it having been a dry season for some time) and so it did rain all night almost; and pretty rules he hath, and told Brouncker and me some of them, which were such as no reason can readily be given for them."—Pepys' Diary.

In 1668 the inquisitive Pepys had warrant for his exclusion of weather lore from the domain of reason, but with three centuries gone all things have changed, save the ready disposition of men of a certain literary bent to cry 'mystery' where there is none, and of all the popular phrases in use to-day, when the weather is up for discussion in the newspapers, none is so abused in the over-using as that which points out that science has 'no reasonable explanation' to offer, and this of phenomena explained in school books!

Indeed, though the secular newspaper is not otherwise given to an observance of Biblical philosophy, no saying is more devoutly believed, no maxim more rigidly accepted as the guiding principle of journalism in its treatment of the weather, than that of the famous text: 'The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth.'

The indifference to weather facts is all the more extraordinary, since the weather is not a casual matter, but one of necessitated daily interest to the public, and, consequently, to the newspaper. That the newspaper recognizes this interest, that it caters to it, that it makes a special effort to meet a taste which it, in fact, partly creates, is shown by the extreme industry evinced in the collection, classification and presentation of storm news; in the constant appearance of the 'weather' assignment on the city editor's list, and in a zeal for a weather 'spread,' with a pomp of type and details; unfortunately, however, not according to knowledge, and, so far as the public is concerned, too often making 'confusion worse confounded.'

In view, therefore, of popular interest in the weather, and in view of the great change that has come over the science of the weather in the past twenty-five years, it is as amazing as it is deplorable that such