A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards
A reader in San Clemente noticed a pattern on the weather page. The reported temperatures for his city frequently were off 3 to 5 degrees and tended to be missing on weekends. Why wasn’t the temperature reported regularly, and from an official location such as the Civic Center?
As it turns out, he was right. The weather data weren't coming from the Civic Center. In fact, the figures weren’t even from the city of San Clemente. The erroneous reports were coming from San Clemente Island, the southernmost of the Channel Islands.
The city is named for the island, though that’s where the similarities end. San Clemente Island is owned by the Navy and is considered uninhabited, though the Navy uses it for training. It’s 55 miles south of Long Beach, and southwest of Catalina.
It’s a wonder the temperature discrepancy was only 3 to 5 degrees.
In investigating the problem, The Times’ weather provider, Accuweather, discovered that the National Weather Service station it previously had accessed in San Clemente had become unavailable. Its computers were searching for data from "San Clemente," but when the city's station went offline, the computers found data from another "San Clemente" -- the island -- and no one noticed.
Accuweather then tried to find an alternate source for weather data from San Clemente. It checked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but the NOAA’s San Clemente weather data actually came from Dana Point.
So, starting Friday, The Times is replacing San Clemente in its California cities list with San Juan Capistrano. However, graphics editor Les Dunseith, who oversees the weather page, said San Clemente can still make a comeback. As soon as the city has an operable station –- that weather services such as Accuweather can access –- it’ll be restored to the page.
Photos: At left, a kite-surfer takes flight near the San Clemente Pier. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times. At right, a schoolgirl passes the gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times