I’ve inadvertently grabbed a tornado’s tail.
Thursday night, I posted some thoughts on the new Star Tribune-WCCO deal that left back-page weather essayist Paul Douglas out in the cold. I noted the content-and-promotion deal could bring in revenue for both struggling parties, and that the Strib was saving extra bucks swapping out a paid columnist for a meteorological team willing to work free.
I woke up Friday morning to a cordial email from Douglas, who spoke kindly of the paper but made it clear its financial gain was more than I’d indicated.
Just wanted to weigh in here and correct one item in your timely article. WCCO-TV is not providing weather content “for free.” I heard it (from the very top echelon of the Star Tribune) that Channel 4 is spending “big bucks” for the privilege of being on the weather page. So yes, this is all about generating new revenue for the Star Tribune at a time they are struggling with Chapter 11. They went from paying me every month, to receiving significant dollars from CBS for their weather content. Again, they are paying for placement of their meteorologists and brand in print, and on the Star Tribune’s web site.
I understand why they did it, to try to stay afloat financially. If I was a manager at the Star Tribune I probably would have said “show me the money,” too. These are the times we live in. I’m sending you the same goodbye note I sent to the Star Tribune today (I think it’s buried somewhere in the metro section). At least they had the courtesy of allowing me to say goodbye.
Finally, I don’t think my departure from WCCO-TV had anything to do with global warming. Never once did they tell me to “ignore the science” or “go easy on climate change.” It was all about the money. They had to cut their bottom line, and in light of my entrepreneurial successes I was an easy, logical target. It would be a sad day for science and free speech if that was, in fact, the reason they sent me packing. I seriously doubt it.
I asked WCCO’s news director Scott Libin if his operation was indeed shoveling bucks for back-page placement. Unfortunately, the corporate shields were up. “Honestly, we’ve said all that’s appropriate about the deal with the Star Tribune, so we’re not going to talk any more about that,” Libin said.
My sources on the Strib business side aren’t as good, so I haven’t been able to confirm Douglas’ allegation from that end. For now, it’s he-said, they-won’t-say.
I wrote Douglas back to confirm I could use his comments. After saying I should “feel free,” he went off on his old station in a way I didn’t see coming:
One part of the whole ‘CCO saga that never came out: late last March they terminated me, to save money, or so they told me. But initially they had no intention of honoring my “no cut contract”, which was in my contract and obligated them to pay me the remaining 9 months of my deal. They had found a “loophole” according to Scott Libin, delivered with a smarmy grin.
At least SAL [WCCO general manager Susan Adams Lloyd] apologized and appeared genuinely pained to have to let me go. Then they proceeded to encourage me to come back into the station and work for 2 more months, thru the end of the May ratings, “to give me the send-off I deserve.” It wasn’t until we threatened a class-action age discrimation lawsuit that they relented and paid me what they owed me contractually.
That’s why I never came back into the station to say goodbye to colleagues and viewers. Questionable treatment after 10 years of service to The Hometown Team.
It’s water over the damn, I’ve turned the page and moved on, but your readers deserve the truth, not corporate spin. Again WCCO is paying the Strib to be on the weather page, an expensive product placement. I certainly wish the Strib well and continue to root for their survival and success in these unprecedented times.
It was clear last April that Douglas had no love lost for Channel 4 management, especially after giving spiky interviews to the Strib’s Neal Justin and his former station, KARE11. But I hadn’t heard about the smarm factor, the “loophole,” or the threatened “class-action discrimination suit.”
Back to you, Scott Libin. “We’re not going to talk any more about personal issues, so I’m not going to respond to that accusation.”
I have some more checking to do, but the weather guy can really kick up a storm, huh?