Joe Crain, the WICS meteorologist who was taken off-air after criticizing the Illinois ABC affiliate’s use of the Code Red weather alert has been fired by the station.
In on-air comments on June 5, Crain criticized the use of the Code Red weather alert, which was implemented by parent company Sinclair Broadcasting to its owned stations. Crain said in part, “A lot of people not very happy with [Code Red] over the last few months since we’ve implemented it on StormTeam 20. That’s evident by the thousands of comments on social media, letters to the editor and frequent calls to local talk-radio shows. We’ve heard you, and yes, we realize you have some very strong and passionate views about it.”
Though the station later dropped Code Red and started using Weather Warn for its alerts after Crain’s complaint, Crain was let go. The Associated Press reports Sinclair declined further comment.
“We live and work and have families and friends in this community—safety is deeply personal for us,” said WICS GM Rick Lipps in an on-air statement. “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. As such, we are changing the name of our early warning alert to ‘Weather Warn.'”
TV news talent agent Mort Meisner told the Associated Press:
Crain’s contract likely included a standard “moral turpitude” clause subjecting him to discipline or dismissal for action which embarrasses the station. A 20-year veteran news director and editor, Meisner said, “If you blast your owners or your bosses publicly, you probably should be fired.”
Meisner, who represents some talent working for Sinclair, noted that weather is the top reason viewers tune in to television news, and the media have a responsibility not to frighten them needlessly with forecasts.
“I side with him (Crain) that it might be overkill, but I side with them (Sinclair) once he blasts or questions ownership publicly and especially on the air.”