Illinois meteorologist Joe Crain might have lost the battle – and his job – over his stand-taking against alarmist “Code Red” weather warnings, but his former employer – Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Springfield channel WICS – has replaced the silly doomsday wording with the less sensationalist “Weather Warn.”
Whether the wording changes the prolific use of the scare tactic remains to be seen, but Crain’s firing at the very least has drawn national attention: Stephen Colbert squeezed an entire comic bit out of the situation for his CBS Late Show (watch it above).
In mock-irate high dudgeon – “I’m as wet as hell and I’m not going to forget my umbrella anymore!,” he said, adding, “Where’s my Tony, Cranston?” – Colbert decried the local news practice of using weather-related scare tactics (or, as he put it, using Code Red till viewers’ “pants are at Code Brown”).
Crain’s firing seems to have struck like lightning outside his local viewing area. The Chicago Tribune has reported social media protests, petitions calling for Crain’s re-hiring and attempted advertiser boycotts. The paper reports that even U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who lives in Springfield, voiced support for Crain (the Norse God of Beige, per Colbert), while a reporter for a local weekly newspaper rewrote the words to the old labor anthem “Joe Hill” to “Joe Crain.”
Earlier this week, WICS general manager Rick Lipps made at least a modest concession by changing the “Code Red” alarms to “Weather Warns” and promised that the station would try to better pinpoint the geographic locations of threatened areas.
But no word of Crain’s rehiring, no doubt because the former weatherman not only complained of the alerts, but of the corporate boss who mandated them: Sinclair.
Said Crain on air during his last broadcast (watch it above, included in the Colbert clip), “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.”
Ironically, the meteorological controversy follows by a couple weeks the righteous outburst by Dayton, Ohio, Fox45 weatherman Jamie Simpson who chastised viewers for complaining about local channels interrupting The Bachelorette for warnings about the disastrous tornado ripping through the area.
“This is a dangerous situation!,” said Fox 45 meteorologist Jamie Simpson during the May 27 tornado strike. “I’m sick and tired of people complaining about this! … I’m done with you people. I really am.”
Actually, the two meteorologists are making the same argument, if from different angles. When warnings are necessary, nothing else matters, but when “Code Red” fear-mongering becomes ubiquitous, The Bachelorette might seem a reasonable alternative.
And in case you missed Deadline’s original story about the Dayton tornado, here’s Jamie Simpson calling out The Bachelorette crazies: