Tom Skilling’s revised forecast ‘not related to Sinclair’

Tom Skilling

Tom Skilling’s decision not to host his annual weather seminar had nothing to do with the impending takeover of Tribune Broadcasting stations by Sinclair Media Group, the WGN-Channel 9 chief meteorologist said Wednesday.

Skilling posted a lengthy message on my Facebook page after I reported that he would not be hosting his annual Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar for the first time in 38 years. The early April event has drawn sell-out crowds to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia since Skilling started it in 1981.

A reader questioned whether Skilling had opted out in light of the controversy over Sinclair’s political agenda and concerns that Sinclair might pressure Skilling to soft-pedal his reports on climate change.

“It's honestly not related to Sinclair,” Skilling wrote in his response. “I wanted to free my schedule of the prep work usually done for the Fermilab program . . . in order to devote the time [to] engage in a series of climate change programs.”

Skilling said he already has hosted three programs on what he called "such a timely and important subject,” and has three more coming up, including one April 21 with the Sierra Club in Palatine.

Sinclair has been in the spotlight this week since a video montage went viral showing anchors at Sinclair stations delivering identical messages parroting President Donald Trump’s media-bashing talking points. The Maryland-based company is poised to take over Tribune Media in a $3.9 billion deal that would put Sinclair into 72 percent of all U.S. households.

Now in his 40th year at WGN, Skilling, 66, reportedly is the highest-paid local weatherman in America and arguably the most popular figure in Chicago television. In 2012 he signed a 10-year contract renewal with Tribune Broadcasting.

Here is the complete text of Skilling’s post:

It's honestly not related to Sinclair. I wanted to free my schedule of the prep work usually done for the Fermilab program--there are hotel reservations and travel arrangements to be made for my speakers--plus the content prep which takes time---in order to devote the time [to] engage in a series of climate change programs. There's prep work for each of these and this is such a timely and important subject.

I've done 3 programs already, including a program with Congressman Bill Foster and Dr. Don Wuebbles of the University of IL at a conference of science teachers in Downers Grove several week ago--and traveled to Champaign yesterday for the talk to students there on media weather yesterday. I also sat down with Mayor Rahm Emanuel two weeks ago for a podcast on the subject.

I'd have been unable to get talks and background info together for these had I been preparing for Fermilab in addition to the regular daily schedule. I have three more programs on climate change that I'm really looking forward to in coming weeks and have already posted information on a talk we have upcoming April 21st with the Sierra club out in Palatine coming up. Another follows in Naperville the following weekend and I'll be posting more information on that.

I've also had a long scheduled trip out of town for vacation next week and have been asked to MC a program at which Buckingham Fountain will be turned on in early May and White Sox Weather Day is coming up too.

We were also up in Upper Michigan last week shooting an icebreaker story with our friends at the U.S. Coast Guard. That will air in the next few weeks and we've been busy with that. Couldn't have done that had I been getting ready for our Fermilab program.

So my schedule is a busy one and I it seemed wise to take a hiatus from our Fermilab severe weather program this year.