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Weather reports and the editorial treatment of the climate emergency

Florent Guyotat, deputy editorial director of franceinfo is at the microphone of the Mediator of Radio France, Emmanuelle Daviet, to respond to comments from listeners on the weather and climate.

Drought is currently one of the major concerns. The months of December, January and February were marked in France by relative mildness and a lack of snow and rain, with a record sequence of 32 days without rain. An alarming situation which, according to some listeners who write to us, would contrast with the tone of the weather reports. Here are some posts:

“I am disgusted to hear weather reports where the rain is considered a calamity. This Wednesday morning on franceinfo, I heard that the showers were going to ‘spare’ the departments of the South. It is a shame to still convey similar patterns.”

“In the weather sequences where you use a cheerful tone to talk about the sun and an annoyed tone to announce the rain when we are experiencing a historic drought. Without being anxiety-provoking, you could adapt your lexical field and tone according to climatic episodes in progress.”

Emmanuelle Daviet: Listeners are therefore asking for a change in vocabulary in the presentation of weather reports. What do you think of this suggestion?

Florent Guyotat : I came up with some sound clips from this week and the end of last week. Christine Pena, our morning weather presenter, is speaking. Here is the proof that we are making great efforts to change our vocabulary in this area:

“Gradually, we will find these generalized rains all over the country. That’s the very good news. Rainy weather is finally setting in, rainy and windy. Over two days, we could reach 40 mm, almost the equivalent of fifteen days of rain over the week. Since it will last all week, we will gain a month of rain. But I don’t have good news because, next week, we have a reconstitution of the anticyclone, so another dry week.”

You have of course heard that the return of the anticyclone is likened to bad news. On the contrary, the arrival of the rain is described as something life-saving. This is proof that we are making efforts to change our vocabulary. Even if, I grant you, there may still be some clumsiness; you should know that around forty weather reports are broadcast every day on franceinfo. And in the collective imagination, it’s true that bad weather, gray weather, is still assimilated to something gloomy. But really, I have the impression that we are making efforts in this area.

Since the start of the school year, franceinfo has been particularly mobilized to deal with environmental issues. The current drought is plunging France into a crisis situation. How do you cover this news?

We have a regular appointment on franceinfo: twice a month, we relocate our antenna with this program called The carbon(n) footprint moderated by our presenter Frédéric Carbonne in the 12/14. We try to highlight initiatives to better fight against global warming. I can already tell you that next week we will return to Gironde, where the particularly deadly fires took place last summer for the vegetation. And we will try to see what is being done in terms of the fight against deforestation and good practices. In addition, every day in our weather reports, Christine Pena also gives advice to listeners to adapt their daily practices. These are the famous eco-gestures of the day. An example :

“It’s the return of the rain. Think about recovering this rainwater. The benefit is twofold: saving money on the one hand since you don’t use the tap and then on the other hand, if the episodes are strong, you will limit the risk of flooding, especially if many of us collect rainwater.”

It’s for people who are lucky enough to have a house and a garden, we understand that. Again, I think this shows that we are making an effort to simply advise our listeners.

Specifically, these listeners believe that it is up to journalists to educate the general public, to raise awareness of the seriousness of the drought in France. Do you consider this to be part of your missions?

Our main mission is to establish an observation. Regularly, we echo the extent of global warming, with reports and figures that are given on the air. We are not directors of conscience. As I told you just now, we give advice to our listeners. Afterwards, everyone is free or not to adapt their behavior accordingly.

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