The last thing anyone expects from everyone is complete consistency. We are human, after all; and mistakes are part of that reality. Most of us learn from those mistakes and do our best to make sure we don’t make them again. We apologize to the people affected by our missteps, and do our best to make up for whatever damage we did by overestimating our own abilities or letting something slip our minds.
Except weather forecasters, of course.
No other profession is built on a history of being wrong and still getting to come to work the next day. Last week we talked about how we take the fact that politicians are liars for granted in this country, but now we need to look at the difference between outright lying and just being wrong about the thing you say you are an expert in. Political candidates can make erroneous predictions as well, like squashing a more popular candidate’s campaign because they are sure they have it locked down or not treating an opponent with the respect they deserve because they’re confident they have it in the bag; but politicians pay the ultimate price for such arrogance, and they end up not getting the job at all.
Weather forecasters are a whole different deal, though. They may have gotten more attractive overall as the years have passed, but that isn’t really the improvement most of us were hoping for. As nice as it may be to have hot women give us our news, it would be even nicer if they were better at it than their male counterparts. That just isn’t the case, however; instead we get new faces telling us the same old lies, and the fact that they are pretty doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re also often wrong. I may be alone in this, but I wouldn’t mind unattractive people giving me accurate weather predictions. If the content itself doesn’t matter, I may as well watch news in a language I can’t understand; the way the women dress on those stations makes it pretty clear most people aren’t watching because of their interest in current events.
Many of us remember the big deal many news stations made about a certain radar system back when it was new. All the larger stations tried to be early adopters, hoping to leave their competition in the dust as they wielded this unique new technology; but no matter how fancy their lingo or images got, they still relied heavily on their reputation for being wrong. Now every station seems to have it, and somehow inaccurate predictions remain just as popular. It’s a good thing comedy headed a whole different direction; if they had followed the way of the weather forecaster, we would have a bunch of prop comics who weren’t funny dominating the scene instead of the hilarious folks we are so lucky to have.
Over the years, I have lived in a few different places. Some of them have been pretty predictable, as far as weather goes. Yet even when I lived in Seattle the weather forecasters were known for getting it wrong. I mean, all they have to say is that it will be overcast with a damn good chance of rain in that area; they would be right over seventy percent of the time. Instead they try to get all specific, and shoot themselves in the foot as much as other areas as they erroneously predict temperatures and storm schedules. Why not just tell folks to dress in layers and carry an umbrella, since they know the city will generally be cold and wet?
I thought all this would change when I moved to California. Once again, weather forecasters in most parts of the state should have it pretty easy: in late April or early May, they could just record themselves saying it should be nice and sunny all week in dozens of different outfits. While they sat on a beach and sipped margaritas, the news station could play a different version of the recording each week. Instead they say it will be ninety-five degrees and it actually hits a hundred, predict summer storms that never happen and fail to predict the ones that do. I mean…why be specific when you’re just going to end up being wrong?
Sometimes they’re right on, of course; but even a broken clock is right twice a day, as they say. That hasn’t led to a trend of people hanging broken clocks on their walls, so they can get the time right every once in a while. Nonetheless, weather forecasters are more secure in their jobs than ever before; as we watch the news lean increasingly towards opinion instead of facts, these predictably inaccurate prognosticators seem to fit in better than ever. Instead of being the awkward and out of place step-sibling, the rise in fake news has made these folks the most respectable member of the family.
After all, we expect them to be wrong.
Most of us have driven by a business with one of those signs in the window that says ‘Psychic’ in glowing neon letters. Very few of us have actually stopped in and paid money to get our palms or tea leaves read, but obviously someone is: every city has psychics, just like every city has weather people, and the signs keep burning in the window year after year. I can’t help but wonder how one brand of prognosticator became a pillar of the community while the other gets sniggered at by a bunch of otherwise decent people who watch the news. It would be no more strange to me to have a psychic show up on a broadcast laden in robes and chicken bones than it is to have the weather predictors step on the stage with their snazzy outfits and green screens. They could make all kinds of projections for tomorrow, be right every once in a while, and just keep on coming to work every day. Exactly like weather forecasters.
I have worked various jobs in my lifetime, and each time I got more skilled or specialized it meant I had to be right about more things more often. No matter what field we’re talking about, the best practitioners almost always bear the burden of having to be consistently correct. When they’re wrong, they have to own up to it and make whatever effort is required to make it right. Any professional in virtually any field has to know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about, or their reputation will suffer for it; except weather forecasters, of course.
Please don’t suggest that psychics are respected professionals, either. Even I have to admit that if I met a local weather personality and a psychic at the same party, I would rather talk to the former. They might be just as full of it as the latter, but it’s okay to be seen in public with the weather person. The last thing any of us want is people whispering that we believe in people who claim they can predict the future, after all.
All I really want is the occasional apology, really. The most annoying thing about weather people is that they show up for work the next day acting just as confident as they did the day before, despite the fact that yesterday they said it would be sunny today and now it’s raining. If they would just start out their segment of the broadcast with a shrug and a brief, “hey, sorry about what I said yesterday”, I might come away from the experience with a little more sympathy for forecasters.
Maybe I’m being a little hard on weather people. After all, they don’t set out to be wrong. They just end up in that awkward place all too often, since predicting the future is pretty hard even if it’s just the weather. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they aren’t scientists of some sort, and scientists make their advances by being wrong much of the time. Other times they just make money by being wrong, like when they release study results that are skewed from the actual numbers gathered in the actual study. This can affect a lot of people, especially when the study is about something as important as food.
Most of us have heard about it, and I think it’s high time we talk about it here: back when sugar began to become something else, the government paid scientists to do a study on the effects of things like fat and sugar on the human body. When the results were not what they wanted, they paid the scientists a little more to say something not backed up by those studies.
Next week we’ll look at another specific set of liars, and dive into why they may have decided to be less than completely forthcoming when they announced those study results. Let’s call this one…
I hope you come back for that, next week. Then we’ll stop picking on liars, at least for a little while. They’re people too, after all. And we all know ‘life doesn’t work if we’re all the same’!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,