Last week veteran meteorologist Geoff Fox was surprised to learn that his employer of 26 years, Hartford’s WTNH, was not going to renew his contract. For Fox, the shock that he felt while learning this news has been dwarfed by what followed.
Since news hit that he was being let go, Fox has received an outpouring of viewer support that he can only describe as “surreal.” His inbox has been flooded by emails, he received a commiserative phone call from Connecticut Senator Dick Blumenthal, and WTNH viewers started a “Keep Geoff Fox on Channel 8″ Facebook campaign, which has so far been liked by over 7,000 people.
“If you would’ve said to me, ‘You’re going to get this kind of reaction,’ I would’ve said, ‘You’re nuts,'” Fox told TVSpy. “What has happened has made what has happened a lot easier to take.”
On a recent flight to visit his parents in Florida, Fox was slipped a message scrawled on an air sickness bag from a fellow passenger, saying, in part, “You are a very talented person and still have a lot of ground to cover.” He received a letter from a marine stationed in Afghanistan who told Fox that he and his mother cried when they heard the news. A high school senior, who said he was writing “with glassy eyes,” emailed Fox to tell him that he was “one of the people I will look to when shaping my adult life.”
The deluge of support has been fueled by social media. Fox is active on Twitter and consistently interacts with fans via his personal blog, “My Permanent Record.” The “Keep Geoff Fox on Channel 8″ Facebook campaign inspired one viewer to change WTNH’s “News8″ logo to read “Lose8″ and another to start an online petition directed to the station’s parent company LIN Media.
“If you want to see what the impact of social media is, here it is,” Fox said, adding that the level of viewer feedback provides a lesson that is “way larger than me or the television station.”
The aftermath of Fox’s dismissal highlights the increased ability of viewers to criticize, and potentially influence, the decisions that a local station makes.
“This is going to have to make all stations stop and think for a moment,” Fox said.