Meteorologist Joe Crain has been fired by ABC affiliate WICS-TV in Springfield, Illinois after 15 years of service, according to station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group’s spokesperson Rob Ford.
On June 5, Crain 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.”
“We just want to let you know it’s not us,” Crain said of himself and other station meteorologists using the “Code Red” system. “We’re just doing our job.”
After that June 5 broadcast, Crain has not been seen on-air or on-line and he’s provided no response to our inquiries. WICS-TV removed Crain’s photograph and bio from its station website shortly after the broadcast. The station has also been actively removing comments and photographs left by Crain’s fans from their Facebook page.
Prior to the June 5 newscast, thousands of residents in the Illinois community that WICS-TV serves complained about the “Code Red” language and alert, describing it as unnecessarily confusing and in conflict with messaging and graphics provided by the National Weather Service for real severe storm alerts. Only the National Weather Service issues Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Watches and Warnings.
Since his removal, many advertisers pulled their campaigns from WICS-TV as people have expressed their displeasure for Crain’s ouster. Thousands of people have complained offline and online, including Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Durbin said Crain is “reliable and he said something that was obvious… (WICS and Sinclair Broadcasting were) overstating the danger to our community. They’re not the only ones doing it, but they seem to be stuck on it and they want to blame him…When someone sticks his neck out the way he did, those of us who believe he’s right need to say so.” On last night’s “Late Night with Stephen Colbert Show” on CBS, Colbert also chimed-in, mocking WICS-TV for their hyped warnings and praising Crain for standing-up.
On Monday, WICS general manager Rick Lipps on Monday issued a statement that the station will ditch the “Code Red” phrase in favor of “Weather Warn.” “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,” Lipps said. “As such, we are changing the name of our early warning alert to ‘Weather Warn.’ In addition, we will continue to work to more precisely define the specific geographic areas of greatest concern.” Shortly after sharing that statement on video, Sinclair Broadcast Group posted an ad for the position left by Crain’s dismissal.