An Exclusive Interview with Julia Leyda & Diane Negra, Editors of 'Extreme Weather and Global Media'

Read our exclusive interview with editors Julia Ledya and Diane Negra in which they offer special insight into Extreme Weather and Global Media. This interview delves into what motivated them and how the book differs to others on the market.

Read the entire interview below... 

1. What prompted you to write Extreme Weather and Global Media?

We both had personal connections to New Orleans, and thus were strongly affected by the Katrina disaster and its mediations. When the March 11 tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster struck Japan, where Julia was based, we joined forces to organize an international symposium that drew together scholars to look at the disasters in tandem, which led to our decision to focus more closely on the growing prevalence of media discourses on extreme weather and the different ways they play out in various national contexts. Although the US provides the most flagrant examples, it’s clear that the commercialization of weather and its production as a new category of media entertainment are transnational trends.

2. Is there anything you want your reader to take away from Extreme Weather and Global Media?

There are certain threads running through the book that, taken together, constitute a clear argument: our world is increasingly affected by extreme weather, but perhaps more importantly, the way we experience extreme weather is shaped by how we understand it via media sources. Perhaps it is more common nowadays to view entertainment (movies, television series) critically, but we also wanted to foreground the ways in which “ordinary” television, as Frances Bonner terms it, participates in subject formation and informs the affective ecologies that make up our daily lives.

3. Is there a part or chapter of the book that resonates the best with you? Perhaps an area you might call a specialty or favorite?

Maybe because of our experiences as American academics based outside the country, the analysis in Laura Beltz Imaoka’s chapter and elsewhere in the book of the ways in which weather is analyzed for the way it is made to articulate foreign threats (in her chapter, the paranoia about wind-borne radiation) into the sanctity of the American homeland really resonated. Yet what so many of the chapters demonstrate is that each country has unique ways of “nationalizing” extreme weather discourses.

4. What challenges did you face while writing the book?

This was a new research area for many of the book’s contributors and we really commend them for moving into largely unexplored intellectual terrain. There wasn’t a unified or well-developed body of literature for them to draw on so they really had to carve out their own paths.

5. What makes this book different from similar titles on the market?

There have been several excellent books focusing on particular weather events, such as Katrina (including Diane’s book Old and New Media after Katrina). There have been individual essays and book chapters that begin to theorize how extreme weather is mediated, but no book-length studies. And though climate change studies and environmental humanities are in a strong growth phase right now, we felt that this focus could both contribute to those areas of inquiry, and also develop a special emphasis of its own.

6. What's a common misconception about this topic that you'd like to clear up?

A comment element in media coverage is to conflate weather with other phenomena like earthquakes. Another is to attribute the term “natural” where it really doesn’t apply. In the context of climate change related to destructive environmental behavior, there are very few weather events that could actually fulfill the criteria implied by that term.

7. Can you sum up the book in a single sentence?

We maintain that extreme weather is a major mode of media representation that is hiding in plain sight – scholarly notice of it remains scant and our book seeks to remedy this inattention.

8. What findings in writing or researching the book surprised you?

It’s not so much a research finding as a new manifestation of the representational culture of extreme weather but we have been really interested to see how weather has moved right into the center of US news coverage. For instance, this summer if you were to watch a broadcast of ABC’s World News Tonight not only it is typical for it to lead with an extreme weather story, but the network meteorologist pulls up a chair to the anchor’s desk within minutes of the start of the broadcast and gives a rundown on fires, floods, etc. across the nation. This occurs on a nightly basis and illustrates how regularized coverage of extreme weather has now become.

Click here to look inside and read a free excerpt from the book!

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    In the two decades bracketing the turn of the millennium, large-scale weather disasters have been inevitably constructed as media events. As such, they challenge the meaning of concepts such as identity and citizenship for both locally affected populations and widespread spectator communities. This…

    Paperback – 2015-06-17