SWAILS 43 YEAR TV CAREER ENDS...
For a couple weeks I’ve been wanting to write this message to all of you who have followed my career, watched my forecasts, and supported my family for untold years. I’ve held off because the raw emotion and reality of my situation has made it difficult to find the words. Today, is the day I found my voice.
So let me begin with the ending, recently my employer, KGAN TV in Cedar Rapids informed me that they would not renew my contract and that I was being let go. My question was, uh why? Did I do something wrong? Having recently won a Midwest Emmy (and now nominated for two more), broadcast live video of a tornado approaching Iowa City, built a weather team that was awarded the best in Iowa by the Iowa Broadcast News Association, and received numerous ratings bonuses, what's the problem?
I certainly didn't find any evidence or reasons in my last employee review. You can see some of the remarks made by my news director prior to my release. You will notice that in two categories I was given "Rock Star" evaluations. My co-workers and I were all told that those were rarely issued and required exemplary work.
I directly asked my managers, "what had I done wrong"? After all, this was the station my family watched when I was growing up. My Idol, Conrad Johnson had set the weather bar high here in the 60s and 70s. Craig Johnson followed his lead. This was my dream job. I had worked tirelessly to regain the reputation this station had for weather in its glory days. The answer to my question from the top was simple and direct, I did nothing wrong...end of story.
For reasons I'm still unclear about, the decision makers at Sinclair Broadcasting decided to eliminate the chief meteorologist's position at KGAN. I have no doubt it had to do with the fact that after 43 years, my experience and knowledge in the business allowed me to generate a generous but fair salary. It didn't start that way. When I began at KWWL in 1977 I was making $2.30 an hour....minimum wage. Over the years, I worked morning shifts, night shifts, and hundreds of holidays. At one point I worked 30 consecutive days when one of my stations was short staffed. I made big sacrifices for my family but I put bread on the table, made a name for myself, and a very good income. That's the American dream, come true!
The disappointing part of my story is this is now the third time since 2008 I've been let go for the same apparent reason, MONEY. It happened at KWQC, WQAD, and now here. Just as bad, I've gotten notes from so many of you saying the same thing has happened to you in the corporate world. You worked hard, did your job, and built a life only to see it crumble. It can be heartbreaking. My 90 year old dad who is one of the kindest soft spoken people ever, was crushed when I told him the news. I won't forget the hurt and pain in his voice. It was harder to swallow than being told I was gone. Decisions like this impact more than just the employee.
So thinking long and hard about this situation, here's what I have to say. My company did nothing wrong by ending my contract. They paid me out and gave me a couple months to find my way. When I signed up for the job I always knew it was a possibility. This is the hidden aspect of the American dream.
Be that as it may, I actually want to thank KGAN and the other stations I've worked at, for the chance to live my American dream. I've been able to meet so many amazing people (including my wife). I've been paid well to do a job I was passionate about. Every day I had a purpose in life where I knew my words could make a positive difference in the lives of others. How priceless is that. And one last thing, I've gotten to know so many of you over the years. It's like having family all over the Midwest. When we had Eden, when Carolyn had cancer, and I was in the hospital, you flooded us with support and encouragement. I am truly blessed and extremely grateful for all that is my life!
The purpose of this message, is to let you know I'm no longer on the air and that there was nothing wrong with my attitude or performance. I gave it all I had and nobody will deny that. For whatever reason, KGAN made a business decision they are entitled to make. We all need to respect it and move on from it. I hope it all works out for both sides. Please, no nasty notes to KGAN!
When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that's the attitude at my house. We will be fine and there will be new opportunities and challenges. I can tell you from experience that faith and hope are the pillars we stand on. My spirit is not broken and I have much to be grateful and positive about. I'm waiting for the next door to open. My dream is far from over.
Roll weather and my best to everyone. I've included some pictures from earlier in my career below.
PS If you need a hard worker I'm available! Also, if you haven't like my Terry Swails facebook page a click would be appreciated.
Me above contemplating my future
Working at KWQC, roughly the late 80s.
Bath time for Eden who was pushing 11 months.
Doing a live broadcast at the Mississippi Valley Fair. That was a wild place to do a show, especially after the crowds poured out of the music venue during the weather. I was passionately kissed one year by a young lady with a cowboy hat on the air. Never saw it coming!
Eden and I in a snow fort. I think 2009. That was a good day.
My all-time favorite picture of Carolyn taken for her book, My Fight, How I Kicked the Cancer Fairy's Butt! (2017)
My bobblehead. You've made it when you get one of these.
Doing a web hit before my hair turned to a whiter shade of pale.