Joe Crain, a meteorologist in Springfield, Illinois, was pulled off the air after he criticized the TV station’s “Code Red” weather alert system while delivering the weather forecast on June 5. Crain began working at ABC affiliate WICS-TV in 2004.
Crain questioned the validity of the alerts, arguing that the system at times may exaggerate the true that and that “not all storms are created equal.” He also called the Code Red system a “corporate initiative” and encouraged viewers to keep sending messages to the station to criticize it.
The general manager of WICS-TV, Rick Lipps, issued a statement on June 10 to explain that the “Code Red” name was being changed to “Weather Warn.” He did not comment at the time about whether Crain would be returning to the broadcast. Crain’s bio was taken down from the station’s website after the June 5 incident. The station’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, confirmed to CNN Business on June 12 that Crain had been let go.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Joe Crain Publicly Criticized His TV Station’s ‘Code Red’ Weather Alert System, Stating That it Was a Corporate Decision Likely Made Up By a Journalism School Graduate
Joe Crain addressed complaints about the weather alert system that WICS-TV had been using during a broadcast on Wednesday, June 5. Crain explained that he agreed with viewers who felt the “Code Red” alerts at times overhyped the actual threat. “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.” Crain said he preferred how the National Weather Service tracks weather threats, with a color-coded scale that analyzes the intensity of the storm by area.
Crain said that “Code Red” was not perfect and that it was “created by likely a journalism school graduate. That being said, I’m a journalism school graduate.”
Crain continued, “When you hear Code Red you think, ‘the feces is about to hit the fan.’ We understand your concerns and we want you to know that we take them very seriously. As far as myself goes, I don’t take myself very seriously, but I do take my job seriously, and my responsibility to the public. We want you to know that it’s not us. This is a corporate initiative, the Code Red Alert. 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.”
2. Joe Crain Was Pulled From the Air After That Broadcast & he Has Since Been Fired From WICS-TV
Joe Crain’s broadcast in which he criticized WICS-TV’s “Code Red” weather alert system as a “corporate initiative” was on Wednesday, June 5. He wasn’t on the air the following day. His bio was also deleted from the TV station’s website. But the company remained tight-lipped as to his job status.
In a statement shared on social media on June 10, general manager Rick Lipps did not specify as to whether Crain would be returning to deliver the forecast. He merely stated, “It is our policy to not comment on individual personnel matters and we will continue to adhere to that policy out of respect to Joe Crain.”
Crain told the State Journal-Register on June 6, “I’m employed by WICS and have no comment to offer.” Crain has not made any additional public comments since then. His social media profiles still state that he is a meteorologist at WICS-TV.
But CNN Business confirmed late on June 12 that Joe Crain was fired. A spokesperson for WICS-TV’s parent company, Sinclair, told the network that “Joe was let go.”
3. Local Companies Pulled Ads From the Springfield TV Station & Fans Launched a Petition Demanding That Crain Be Reinstated
Joe Crain is a well-known figure in Springfield, Illinois. He has been a meteorologist there since 2004. And fans were not happy to see him disappear from the channel.
Viewers have posted comments to WICS-TV’s social media profiles demanding for Crain to be reinstated and continuing to criticize how the organization categorizes weather threats. At least four area businesses have also pulled advertisements from the station. The State Journal-Register reported that those companies included Sutton’s, Henson Robinson Company, Central Illinois Ace Hardware, and Marx Fireplaces & Lighting.
Fans have launched a petition calling for Crain to be reinstated. The online petition has garnered more than 15,000 signatures.
The issue has also attracted attention fron lawmakers. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois publicly stated, “I’m on Joe Crain’s side” during a press conference. He later told the State Journal-Register, “When someone sticks his neck out the way he did, those of us who believe he’s right need to say so.”
4. The Sinclair Broadcast Group Initially Issued Statements Defending the ‘Code Red’ System But WICS-TV is Now Changing the Name
WICS-TV is part of the Sinclair Broadcast Group. The company owns more local TV stations nationwide than any other organization. Sinclair public relations officer Ronn Torossian defended the “Code Red” weather alert system in a statement to the Washington Post. He praised WICS-TV for issuing the “Code Red” on June 5. “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.”
Despite that sentiment, WICS-TV is now changing its tune. General Manager Rick Lipps issued a statement on June 10 clarifying that the “Code Red” name would be changed in favor of “Weather Warn.”
Lipps stated, “Code Red alerts were developed because we believe they enhance the community’s preparedness for severe weather. To reiterate, the decision on if, and when, to issue Code Red weather alerts is made at the local level. Our alerts from last week were no exception.
We live and work and have families and friends in this community — safety is deeply personal for us. 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. 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.”
5. Joe Crain Worked as a Radio Personality For More Than 20 Years Before He Was Hired at WICS-TV
Joe Crain is an Illinois native. According to his professional Facebook page, he grew up in Cairo and has been living in Springfield with his wife and children since 1996.
Crain earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University. He later completed his certification in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University.
Crain spent more than 20 years on the radio, according to his Linkedin profile. He joined WICS-TV as a meteorologist in August of 2004.