A local Illinois weatherman criticized his own news station’s “Code Red” weather alerts, saying the alert “doesn’t recognize that not all storms are created equal” and that the alerts are forced upon him by a “corporate initiative.”
All while live on air.
“We want you to know it’s not us,” Joe Crain, a meteorologist for WICS in Springfield, Illinois, said in a June 5 on-air monologue that has gone viral. “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.”
Crain hasn’t appeared on air since, and his job may now be on the line. In addition, several companies have stopped advertising with the station in solidarity with Crain and his commentary against the corporate decision-makers.
Crain has worked at WICS, which is a CNN affiliate, since 2004. His profile page on WICS’ website was removed after his commentary was broadcast.
Crain declined to comment to CNN on his employment status. WICS did not respond a request for comment, and its owner, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Sinclair public relations officer Ronn Torossian wrote 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.”
According to the Post, Sinclair also said that the seemingly constant red alert days were the product of an active weather pattern and that the decision to issue a code red alert is made by local meteorologists,
Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the US, and the company’s role and media influence has come under heightened scrutiny in the past couple years.
Sinclair’s role is particularly important because, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, 37% of Americans say they often watch local television news. That’s higher than those who get news from cable news, network TV news, newspapers, radio, social media and news websites, the Pew study found.
Weather is the most important topic of local news viewers by a wide margin. A Pew study earlier this year found that 70 percent of US adults said weather was an important local news topic for daily life, well ahead of crime, the next highest-rated topic, at 44 percent.
The problem with Code Red
In his criticism, Crain explained that the “Code Red” was an overly simple phrase for a more complicated issue.
“It’s not the perfect solution because, of course, with ‘Code Red,’ it’s all inclusive. It doesn’t recognize that not all storms are created equal,” he said.
The National Weather Service, he noted, puts out a 1-5 scale on severe weather that shows how frequent the storms are and their intensity.