29 MAR 11 (final): Kurt-ains
A disclaimer must be posted right off the bat: I used to work at WTVM, and was released in 2009. Yet I have no hard feelings toward the station, and still have good relationships with several people there. So today's topic is a bit awkward for me -- but maybe not as bad as LeBron James going back to Cleveland in a Miami Heat jersey.
BLOG EXCLUSIVE: As we were first to post at 10:30 p.m. ET Monday, Kurt Schmitz no longer works at WTVM. "My head is reeling," Schmitz admitted to your blog. But he emphasizes NOT quit the station, and was not even certain he was fired until Monday. That's understandable -- since meteorologists are reluctant to say there's a 100-percent chance of anything.
Kurt Schmitz spent nearly 22 years checking weather maps for WTVM (and in recent years WXTX). But he says it all ended Friday afternoon, when he showed up for work as usual. Schmitz says he wound up being escorted from the building - as if the managers feared he might stir up a severe thunderstorm or something.
Kurt Schmitz told me he couldn't say much about what happened right now, on "advice of counsel." I should have asked if he paid attention to those WTVM advertisers, and hired Gary Bruce or Ken Nugent.
But Kurt Schmitz wanted to make one thing clear: "I did not, would not quit" - noting he was still under contract to WTVM. And we all know how weather forecasters don't want to leave the beach until the entire hurricane has blown through....
We were tipped off to this disappearance by an e-mail we received Monday morning, asking "Kurt Who?":
We don't watch TV every day (or night) so... kurt could have fled for greener pastures and we simply missed it. But WTVM has erased every single reference to him on their website. Like he never even existed.
Did he run afoul of someone?
Was he struck from the book of life... having his cartouche removed from the sight of God and man?
Or was it like an old Stalinist, Soviet purge where he was shoveled onto a truck to some gulag to become persona non grata?
we all know about the behind-the-scenes drams that happen at TV stations and that all the Lee Brantleys make sure that all the Joe Publics never know the dirt. But you can't have someone like Kurt, who has been around for so long serving this community and then act like he was a figment of our imaginations.
Inquiring minds want and have a right to know!
Our reader was very observant, when it comes to wtvm.com . In 2011, any TV station's website is a bit like the old Communist Party newspapers in Moscow or Beijing. If a familiar name isn't there anymore, it's usually a sign he's not considered among the "faithful" - and his fate there may be full.
There was no trace even of "Kurt's Weather Blog" on the WTVM website Monday night. The competitive side of me wants to declare that a win, with another blogger out of the way....
I should have realized something was up at WTVM Friday evening. It was odd to see Katherine Kington presenting the weather, even though she's done it on weekends several times. I presumed the managers sent all three meteorologists home early, to rest for Saturday storm coverage -- but it turns out they were scraping the bottom of the rain barrel.
Another clue came during WTVM's Monday evening newscasts. The "bumpers" showing all the anchors were changed to something generic. It's a good thing WTVM doesn't hang portraits of those anchors in the hallway, as other TV stations do -- as Kurt Schmitz would have been pained to see his picture at the Lee County Flea Market.
Yet as last weekend's storms developed, Kurt Schmitz's name somehow was attached to a couple of Twitter posts by WTVM's "Storm Team." Maybe he logged in from home, simply out of a "weather junkie" habit....
Kurt Schmitz had to serve a suspension from WTVM two years ago, but the station had a different news director then. It doesn't appear Friday's firing had anything to do with that. And I can't believe the managers gave Schmitz a monthly quota of grade schools to visit.
A conspiracy theory even is emerging about Kurt Schmitz's dismissal - that it might have been orchestrated by fellow WTVM meteorologist Derek Kinkade. When I asked Schmitz about that Monday night, he answered simply: "No comment." Hmmmm - I've never had a lightning bolt stuck in my back when I wasn't looking....
However, this firing opens the door for Derek Kinkade to become WTVM's new Chief Meteorologist. He has an "AMS seal," while Bruce Lee does not. And he's a native of Alabama, to keep a delicate balance with Georgia's Barbara Gauthier.
Kurt Schmitz has been "shoveled onto the truck" once before, when he worked in Oklahoma. But he recalled an old media maxim. "In television, you're not somebody until you've been fired." In this economy, I'm not sure that line on a cover letter will help anyone get ahead.
"I'm looking for work," Kurt Schmitz told me - and I have a feeling he won't be out of work long. He was a fill-in weekend meteorologist on CNN years ago. Schmitz also could go to Atlanta and work at The Weather Channel. How strange would that be - to have Schmitz receive a character reference from Maria LaRosa?
I didn't ask for details about Kurt Schmitz's contract at WTVM. But I suspect it includes a "non-compete" clause, barring him from working at other Columbus media outlets for awhile. If Dee Armstrong wants to add a weather segment to her WLTZ talk show, she'll have to put Schmitz on a telephone speed-dial.
And if I was Bob Jeswald at WRBL, I might be a little concerned about this development. His car pooling buddy in those CCG-TV messages may wind up leaving stranded along the side of Veterans Parkway, outside the Columbus Career Center.
E-MAIL UPDATE: It wasn't my plan to pile on, but someone else brought up WTVM in a Monday message - apparently after we noted how the National Weather Service computer voice pronounces Tuskegee....
A couple of weeks ago a news reporter on WTVM pronounced Acropolis as "aka-poltice"...not just one time ,but 2 times..That was my laugh for the day..
There's nothing like visiting that landmark during a vacation in Aka-pulco.
Let's see what else had our attention Monday....
+ Our best wishes to Columbus Councilor Judy Thomas, whom we understand has been under the weather recently. I'm told.... yeow, here we go again. Now someone will accuse Derek Kinkade of causing that, too.
+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson announced plans for quarterly "Let's Talk" meetings around Columbus, featuring the City Manager and herself. A meeting in MidTown isn't scheduled until December - so the mayor doesn't have to worry about having an unhappy holiday season.
+ Instant Message to all the Republicans in Iowa: Why are you doing this to Roy Moore - encouraging him to run for President? He couldn't even beat Bob Riley in an Alabama primary.
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UPDATE 1/12:40A ET