About 15 years ago, when in Atlanta for a long weekend, I stopped by the first TV station that paid me to write and produce news – WSB-TV – for a tour of its new building. While seeing the state-of-the-art broadcast facility first-hand, I was introduced to the station’s news director, who had been hired since I left. When he found out I lived and worked in the Detroit area, he said “Detroit. The home of The Best Weatherman in The Country, Chuck Gaidica.”
In the years since I worked with Chuck at WDIV-TV in Detroit, I heard that title associated with him on more than just that one occasion. And every time I did, I flashed back to a moment in the WDIV newsroom in February 1998. Detroit was expected to get some snowfall one winter’s night. The news director, wanting big ratings in a “sweeps” period, demanded that I make snow the lead story at 6:00 and hype “a major storm” on the way. When Chuck came into the newsroom that afternoon, he made the producers’ desks his first stop (unlike most weather casters, he wanted to actually talk about a shared vision for his role in the newscast, not just how much time he was being given). I asked him if he’d consider what was coming “a major storm.” He looked aghast. He let me know he was only expecting a small amount of snow. When I shared the boss’ plan with him, he was not happy. We agreed, integrity and facts should come first, but I was under strict orders. After we talked, he went to see the news director and when he got back to my desk, he let me know the good news – I was going to have to find a new lead story.
So it should be no surprise that Chuck’s job meant more than just getting to be on TV. But, he did that part exceptionally well, making talking for 4 minutes in front of a green screen with no script or Telepromter then making smart smalltalk with the anchors look easy (it’s not). On screen he’s charismatic, clever and compelling. He is in real life too.
Today’s news that Chuck is leaving his TV weather job in August to join a church as a minister is the fulfillment of a dream for him over the last few years. Even though he has been in the Detroit market since the early ’80s, he’s only 55 (yes, he was that talented in his 20s). He’ll still appear on WDIV on their highly-rated specials, presumably like the Downtown Fireworks and the Thanksgiving Parade.
The first generation of TV legends got to finish their time on TV and then ease into retirement. But that’s not happening as often for this second generation. So many of them are leaving because their contracts aren’t being renewed or management “asks” them to retire. For The Best Weatherman in The Country, it’s a career change sending him off the set, on his own terms, and well-deserved.