Aug 16, 2011

Outlook now sunny for outspoken pubradio weatherman in Puget Sound

Cliff Mass, the colorful local weather guy whose non-weather opinions got him booted off Seattle's news channel KUOW in May, soon will have a regular spot on jazz station KPLU in Tacoma, according to the Seattle Times. Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, was featured weekly on KUOW's morning show, Weekday, to discuss weather. But sometimes he would veer off onto other subjects, including a controversy over which textbooks to use in local schools. Station management asked him to stop; he refused. And so Steve Scher, host and executive producer of Weekday, removed Mass from the unpaid spot. In a letter posted for listeners, Scher wrote, "I do not want the weather segment to become an opinion and views segment."

The pair's on-air dust-up and Mass's subsequent firing was dutifully covered by KUOW. Petitions containing more than 2,500 signatures were delivered to the station's board of directors. KUOW management stood by the decision. "There is a place for everything," Program Director Jeff Hansen said. "The weather segment is not the place for random opinion; that is the place for weather to be discussed."

Mass says he was approached by a TV station and five radio stations to go on the air. One commercial radio station, he says, offered him a one-hour show to talk about the weather and anything else he wanted to discuss. Mass wasn't interested. "I only want five minutes," he says. "This is a very small part of my life."

Meanwhile, Joey Cohn, director of content at KPLU, received dozens of emails from listeners saying the station should have Mass on the air. "I've been here almost 24 years, and I've never seen a personality so in demand," Cohn says. "And if the audience likes him, I like him."

So Weather with Cliff Mass, beginning Sept. 2, will run from 9 a.m. to 9:05 a.m. on Fridays.

"It'll be strictly weather," Mass says.

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