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Posted at 04:40 PM ET, 09/26/2011

Post Roast: Confusing farmer almanacs

The Post’s Capital Weather Gangerred Thursday when writing about the winter weather outlook. Jason Samenow, a trained meteorologist and founder of the Post’s popular weather blog, confused two venerable folk publications: The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the Farmers’ Almanac.

Note the differences — one is singular possessive, the other is plural possessive, and the latter does not capi­tal­ize the definite article.

Samenow does occasional stories on these popular almanacs, which give seasonal weather forecasts and have been relied on by growers and gardeners since the early days of the country. The Farmers’ Almanac dates to 1818, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac, sister publication to Yankee Magazine, dates to 1792.

Generally Samenow likes to debunk their forecasts as unscientific and points out when they get it wrong, and occasionally when they get it right.

But in Thursday’s blog post, he took the Farmers’ Almanac to task for being internally inconsistent, quoting from passages in its publication that seemed to contradict each other. Except that the inconsistency was in the fact that he was comparing passages in the Farmers’ Almanac to passages in The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Oops.

Samenow got the two confused. The web content editor of Farmers’ Almanac, Jaime McLeod, called me within an hour of the blog post and explained to me what she thought had happened.

I raised it with Samenow. He realized his mistake and had a corrected blog post up just minutes later. The confusion arose because he had done a blog post in January about mistakes in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, then came across the newer one from Farmers’ Almanac.

“Last week,” Samenow explained, “I came across the apparently different Farmers’ Almanac winter forecast and decided to do a post about it.

“When I did the new blog post, I referred back to the January 5 post to make an anecdotal point about accuracy, not realizing it was from a different almanac.And I followed a link from the January 5 post to cite the Farmers’ Almanac, when it was actually from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.”

This shows the advantages and disadvantages of Web publishing.

Online, the correction can be done very quickly, and an error didn’t stand for very long. But the two almanacs have very similar names and Web addresses (almanac.com and farmersalmanac.com), and when you type in a Google search, one or the other may come up first.

An easy mistake to make, but accuracy is important and always more important than speed.

By  |  04:40 PM ET, 09/26/2011

 
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