Weather in German newspapers
Information about weather belongs - according to weatherman Dieter Walch - to the "high involvement information" and is comparable to information about threatening wars and epidemics. This "involvement" can be characterized by three main aspects:
These aspects are the reason for all mass media which diffuse or broadcast news to include weather reports in their news. The weather reports have to fulfil three basic conditions:
- all people are affected by weather irrespective of their social status;
- people are affected by weather day by day;
- people are affected by weather with regard to central spheres of life like well-being and the abilities to move and to act without restrictions.
they have to be
If we focus on German newspapers of today they are published once a day only and cannot compete with radio and television broadcasting weather reports almost hour by hour during the day. Moreover, in the early morning when questions arise like "What are the appropriate clothes today?" or "What are the appropriate activities today?" the majority of people has no opportunity to consider a newspaper's weather report. Polls in this field in 1992 as well as in 1998 showed that the first places as sources for weather information for the public are radio and television whereas the newspapers follow at a considerable distance.
- as current as possible,
- readily comprehensible for a widespread audience of listeners, readers and viewers;
- adequate in respect to very different needs of the mass media audience.
Nevertheless, the nowadays relatively minor position of newspapers' weather reports should not be an insuperable obstacle to consider the development of weather reports and their maps from the very beginning up to the current graphical forms and meteorological contents.
A first approach was made to divide this development into periods. 110 weather maps which had been published in 56 German newspapers between 1881 and 1998 (mostly between 1986 and 1998) were analyzed. As the surprising result of this analysis we can distinguish between three main periods.
A century of meteorological maps without change (about 1880-about 1985)
As one of the first German newspapers the "Berliner Tageblatt" published a weather map in November 7th, 1881 replacing the former weather report which comprised some words and some figures only. The main components of this new type of weather report were
- the monochrome weather map of Central Europe,
- the legend for the signs used in the map, and
- a text which interpreted the state as well as the forecast of air pressure and
- wind concerning also future temperatures and humidity.
If we proceed to the 1930s the weather reports analyzed at that time show an enlargement of the space represented in the weather map by going much more to the North (Greenland, Iceland) whereas the size and the scale were reduced. Several weather reports no longer comprised any map legend, but in general or often the text distinguished between different areas of forecasting: the nearer surroundings as the area of the respective newspaper's readers and total Germany.
These general features did not change in their characteristic form and content up to the mid of the 1980s.
From the meteorological map to the pictorial map (about 1985-1993/94)
The situation in that period is a very contradictory one.
If we look at 20 weather reports published in 1986 in the Federal Republic of Germany we can see that
- the German Weather Service (Deutscher Wetter-Dienst - DWD) has a quasi-monopol in presenting weather data and maps;
- small sizes and metereologically encoded information dominate and keep most people from interpreting weather maps;
- in general metereologically encoded texts give information about high- and low-pressure areas only;
On the other hand two different features are were added: satellite images and pictorial signs.
- very often the forecasts for Germany do not contain any time or date and the information about weather data from abroad have the level of the 19th century: they are the data of the respective yesterday or even the day before yesterday,
The satellite images as examples of high tech remote sensing were put beside other elements of the weather report without any or without satisfying explanations. Combined with a bad reproduction technique they often seemed to be absolutely senseless because they showed gray regions that nobody could decode with regard to weather activities.
The introduction of pictorial signs for standard weather situations was accompanied by a lot of experiments with many errors, mistakes and relapses into traditional behaviour which seem to be inavoidable in changes like this.
FIGURE J: positions of pictorial clouds partly irritating - Paris: map pictorial sign: clouds/text: fog
FIGURE K: only 4 pictorial signs for the Federal Republic of Germany + 1 sign for Northern German Democratic Republic or Berlin ? Silesia (since 1945 part of Poland) is presented as the Southeastern part of the GDR!!!
Between 1988 und 1991 the German Weather Service presented at least five different types of weather maps:
1988 - traditional representation with small size, isobares, fronts, cloud and wind symbols and temperatures, hand made figures.
1989-0 - new image with larger size, fronts only, pictorial signs and temperature figures, hand made.
1989-1 - smaler size, image made by computer.
1989-2 - forecast map with isobars and fronts only added.
1991 - weather report enlarged, representation similar to 1988.
All these activities and changes were caused by three facts:
- the development of Electronic Data Processing,
- the general increase of economic mass media competition and
- consequently the need to sell the weather information according to the needs of the audience and not anymore to the tradition of the weathermen.
From the pictorial map to the coloured map (since about 1993/94)
Colour became the most visible new element in weather reports in this third period which can be characterized by a strict and consequent turn of the media to a definite service line. If we compare the weather reports distributed between 1986-1993 and the reports of today this analysis leads to several general differences:
- The weather reports considerably increased in size and the weather maps also in number per report. Also multimedia effects like pictures and diagrams were added and, moreover, weather reports became traffic records.
- Information about influence of weather on health, the bio-weather, the pollen count and the air pollution became very popular and part of the weather reports.
Traditional atmosphere is represented by the "elite" newspapers only which show the black-and-white images of the past and generally refuse to join the definite service line for a wide-spread audience.
FIGURE 17 + FIGURE 18
- Contrary to the past very often a newspaper presents the weather information now in different levels of detail:
- on the front page in a very short and general verbal way,
- in the regional news with special maps about the place and the region where the newspaper is published and
- in general at the back of a newspaper's "book" where the national and European maps and figures of the weather of today and the forecast are situated.
- Meanwhile the on-line possibilities of data-transport have led to present very current forecast figures and maps and to avoid traditional features in printing weather data from yesterday or even earlier.
- Several newspapers place telephone numbers of meteorological services at the end of the weather report in order to give to their readers the possibility of direct access to the most current weather information.