Less than a week after an Illinois meteorologist working at a Sinclair Broadcast Group station criticized a corporate policy on-air, a job was listed for a replacement weatherperson, leaving viewers to speculate that the meteorologist was fired for admonishing the group’s “code red” severe weather warning.
Joe Crain, who worked at WICS NewsChannel 20 in Springfield, IL, for 15 years, denounced his station’s parent company’s decision to issue “code red” days to signify severe weather during a live broadcast last Wednesday, June 5.
Speaking to tired viewers who have expressed frustration with the designation, Crain said that management had implemented this language nationwide, despite it being not as accurate as the National Weather Service’s designations, and his team’s efforts to change the practice. From the Washington Post, which covered the fallout of Crain’s comments:
“Code red was created by likely a journalism school graduate,” said Crain as the live cameras rolled. “A lot of people not happy with this since we’ve implemented it. ... That’s evident by the thousands of comments on social media, letters to the editor, frequent calls to local talk-radio shows.”
Crain alluded to that effect in his since-viral forecast Wednesday, expressing sympathy for viewers fed up with the corporate-imposed hype.
“As far as the code red name itself goes, we get that, too,” Crain said. “When you hear ‘code red,’ you think, as they say, ‘the feces is about to hit the fan.’ ” That all culminated into an apology he offered to the viewers.
“I take my job seriously and my responsibility to the public,” lamented Crain, clearly upset that code red days have taken a toll on the credibility he spent a decade and a half earning from viewers. “We want you to know it’s not us. This is a corporate initiative: the code red alert. Behind the scenes, many of us have tried to dissuade it for the last few months.”
While other videos of Crain’s apology have been taken down by WICS, a YouTube video of his broadcast can be viewed below.
Sinclair Broadcast Group has maintained that “code red” alerts are issued at the discretion of local meteorologists, telling the Post in a statement that “we’re glad they [issued a code red]. That afternoon there was significant storm damage in the area including trees falling on homes, downed power lines, and hail storms. Thankfully, residents were adequately warned to prepare.”
Most alarmingly, however, has been Crain’s disappearance from the news station. According to the State Journal-Register, Crain hasn’t appear on-air since his message to viewers last Wednesday. On Thursday, Brad Maushart, a meteorologist working for a Sinclair station in Cincinnati, filled in for Crain, posting on Facebook that he was going to Springfield, IL, to “help out a sister station in-need.”
Viewers created a Change.org petition, Facebook page, and wrote op-eds in support of Crain, the petition amassing thousands of signatures and likes. Advertisers announced they were pulling their spaces from Channel 20 in support of Crain, with one home improvement company telling the Journal-Register, “Hopefully, the corporate office will see a new type of Code Red when they realize their revenues are affected by colossally bad decisions.”
Alas, it seems no amount of support could have saved Crain’s job. As the Associated Press noticed, a job posting for a WICS morning meteorologist appeared on the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s website on Tuesday.
Ironically enough, WICS stated Monday that it was changing the language used for early severe weather alerts, using the phrase “Weather Warn” instead of “Code Red.” General manager Rick Lipps, who issued the announcement, didn’t address Crain’s employment, stating “it is our policy to not comment on individual personnel matters and we will continue to adhere to that policy out of respect to Joe Crain.”
We’ve reached out to Crain and Sinclair for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
Update, 1:01 p.m. ET: In an email to Splinter, Sinclair’s PR firm confirmed that Crain is “no longer with the station.”