A storm is brewing in Illinois after a local television station fired its popular meteorologist, Joe Crain.
The 15-year veteran of WICS-TV in Springfield, Ill., “was let go” from his job on Thursday, a spokesman for Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns the station, confirmed to the State Journal-Register.
Crain went off-script during a June 5 broadcast and expressed his disapproval of “Code Red” alerts, which the station implemented to give viewers an update on the possibility of severe weather.
“A lot of people are not happy with this since we’ve implemented it,” he said of the Code Red initiative. “That’s evident by the thousands of comments on social media, letters to the editor and frequent calls to local talk-radio shows.”
He went on to add, “When you hear Code Red, you think, as they say, 'the feces is about to hit the fan.’ We understand your concerns, and we want you to know that we take them very seriously.”
Viewers of WICS-TV and other stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group had complained that the term “Code Red” unnecessarily sensationalized forecasts that weren’t worthy of raising alarm. Many expressed concern that the overuse of the alerts would desensitize the public and prevent proper recognition of truly dangerous conditions.
Crain went on to explain to viewers that the implementation of the alerts was forced upon him by management. “I do take my job seriously and my responsibility to the public,” he said. “We want you to know it’s not us. This is a corporate initiative, the ‘Code Red Alert,’ and behind the scenes many of us have tried to dissuade it for the last few months, to try something else that’s less controversial to the viewers.”
The criticism didn’t land well with Crain’s employer and the meteorologist was swiftly taken off the air.
Crain’s dismissal didn’t sit well with many viewers, who took to Twitter to express their dismay at his absence and to offer words of support:
@JoeCrain Thank you for your courage. Hubby and I are sick of the sensationalist weather forecasts just for ratings. People learn to take them with a grain of salt, the danger being that they're desensitized and thus ignore warnings when something bad really IS happening.— Miss Lee (@GenX2015) June 13, 2019
Others tweeted that they didn’t have any issues with the alerts, and one felt no one would miss Crain:
One week ago Joe Crain, the morning meteorologist at WICS in Springfield, Illinois, called out station management for mandating over-the-top "Code Red" weather alerts. -- I have NEVER had a problem with "Code Red" days.— Tac Ajnin 😜 (@dhagerjohns) June 13, 2019
Joe Crain: A weatherman slammed his station's constant 'Code Red' warnings Unhappy? Leave! Doubt you will be missed!— craig l richard (@70NvHappy47) June 11, 2019
The feedback on the Code Red alert did get back to the station. WICS-TV General Manager Rick Lipps released a statement announcing an end to “Code Red” alerts on Monday.
“We firmly believe in the need to provide an early warning alert and will continue to provide this potentially lifesaving information, but we have come to understand that the words ‘Code Red’ may no longer be fitting,” said Lipps. “As such, we are changing the name of our early warning alert to 'Weather Warn.’”
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