A meteorologist with an ABC affiliate in Illinois 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.” Crain made the remarks during a live news broadcast on June 5. Since then, Crain hasn’t been seen: his station, Springfield, Illinois-based WICS-TV pulled his profile page from their website and he has yet to return on-air; his social media presence has also been silent since then. While Crain hasn’t been seen of or heard since, thousands of viewers have complained to the station and its advertisers for apparently removing him from-air, prompting even a U.S. Senator to get involved.
Crain has worked at WICS, which is a CNN affiliate, since 2004. WICS is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group which owns 191 television stations in 89 markets around the United States.
Crain declined to comment to Weatherboy on his employment status. Neither WICS nor Sinclair Broadcast Group responded to our requests for comment.
A copy of his fateful broadcast has gone viral on Twitter and Facebook.
Joe Crain video pic.twitter.com/TkY9MXtpHw
— 217Problems (@217Problems) June 6, 2019
Crain’s commentary and disappearance have sparked articles in Newsweek, the Washington Post, and CNN. Even competing meteorologists have remarked on the situation, praising Crain for his courage. Mark Maxwell from WCIA said, “He may work for the other station in town, but Joe Crain earned my respect when he resisted orders to sensationalize the ordinary. I’ll take his authenticity, courage, and clarity over corporate cookie-cutter ratings gimmicks any day.” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) weighed in with support for Crain during a conversation with reporters on Sunday. 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.”
Thousands of people have shared their opinions online of the situation, with many comments coming to the WICS page, Weatherboy Weather, and even a new Facebook fan page. More than 14,000 people have liked the “Supporters of Meteorologist Joe Cain” Facebook page, where viewers are planning rallies to bring back the meteorologist. Online, Lisa Piper wrote,” If/when they overhype the weather, it has an adverse effect–people stop paying attention as a result and when it really IS a severe weather event, like a cat 4/5 hurricane or a nor-easter, residents don’t evacuate. It is never a good idea when people’s lives are at stake.” Kathy Barstow added, “Station managers should be smart enough to figure this out and let the meteorologists decide when severe weather is imminent. No one believes the dire warnings when every sprinkle is the storm of the century!” Derek Wireman also provided his opinion online: “My humble opinion: the TV weather people (especially small and medium markets) are just doing their jobs the best they can. The networks should be responsible for broadcasting accurate weather info. If the network is causing undo harm or expense to local government and residents the FCC should step in.”
More than 15,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that Crain return on-air. And many have reached out to advertisers saying they’ll be boycotted if they continue to run ads on Crain’s channel.
Advertisers have already pulled ads from the station due to the turmoil. Country Lane Memory Care Assisted Living, Gabe’s Home Improvement, Sutton’s, Marx Fireplaces & Lighting, Central Illinois Ace Hardware, S&K Buick GMC, bankwithBOS, Shay & Associates Law Firm, Green Family Stores, Brahler Tire & Auto Center, Susan’s Auto Mall: Honda of Illinois & Friendly Chevrolet are among some of the advertisers that pulled their ads once Joe Cain disappeared. Brahler Tire & Lube Service Centers wrote, “At this time we feel the need to discontinue our advertising with Sinclair Broadcasting’s WICS ABC Newschannel 20. After careful consideration, we feel that without our community, our customers, and friends, that Joe Crain was and is a trusted weatherman for each of us and our families. From one business to another we hope that Channel 20 will understand, that within our community, Joe Crain was counted on to deliver the weather but, even more so, was trusted in keeping us safe. Brahler Tire & Auto hopes that this matter can be resolved in a timely manner for both Joe and Channel 20.”
In response to the building controversy, 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.” Lipps would not comment on Crain’s employment status with the station.
Not everyone agrees Crain should return. Lipps son, Stetson Lipps, wrote in a Facebook post, “So you would rather support someone who bad mouthed his employer and got fired for it, instead of supporting the community that works for the station and trying to earn a living. With advertisers and the public not thinking of a simple idea, two sides to every story…”
Yesterday, Sinclair Broadcast Group posted a job ad for the WICS morning meteorologist role. “Leading the market in severe weather coverage is a top priority,” the ad says. “You must have a strong knowledge of predicting and tracking tornadoes and understand Central Illinois’ complex weather patterns. We’re looking for someone who is personable and has the ability to connect with viewers on-air and during public appearances.” While that job posting is there, it is still not clear what Crain’s employment status is with the station.