When I showed up to work at WXIA for the first time in 2009, nobody greeted me more warmly than Paul Ossmann. We’d become acquainted when WAGA first hired him in 1988. He became one of the founding hosts of WAGA’s Good Day Atlanta. Ossmann jumped ship 13 years ago when WXIA offered him a spot as the station’s main weather guy.
WXIA declined to renew his contract, which expired in July. Ossmann informed his coworkers in January. He didn’t want to leave. He was a popular guy in the building, as he was with viewers. Despite the circumstances, he completed his contract by staying engaged in the newsroom. His professionalism never flagged. If he was bitter, he successfully kept it from becoming public.
It turned out the loss of his job heightened other nagging problems in his life, as outlined in an interview with Rodney Ho of the AJC. His wife left him, and Ossmann has filed for bankruptcy.
The most eye-opening part of Ho’s piece came from public records in bankruptcy court. Ho reports that Ossmann’s annual income was about $225,000. It’s good money, but I’ll bet many folks would have guessed that a big-time weatherman at a station in a top 10 market would have a higher salary.
Ho reports that Ossmann took a salary cut in 2008, at a time when Atlanta TV news folks were losing jobs and taking salary cuts across the board.
I hear a lot of people gripe about their jobs — the unpredictable hours, the evolving (and sometimes unpredictable) technology, the thinning ranks of staff, the squirrelly attempts to build an audience. But I almost never hear people gripe about their salaries — even after the cuts of 2008. I’m pretty sure it’s because TV news folk consider themselves blessed to be able to continue to work in an industry that remains interesting and dynamic.
If Ossmann was earning $225K, you can imagine where those of us with much lower profiles fall on the salary scale. We don’t make big money. We have debt. I drive a 2002 Honda Accord. A veteran on-air colleague is currently looking for a new/used family car, and insists that $5000 is all the family can afford.
At the same time, I see a lot of fancy expensive cars in the parking lots of local TV stations. I think some folks feel that they have to keep up appearances: I’m in TV. I must carry myself accordingly. I’m guilty of that sometimes. If you don’t carry yourself with a bit of swagger, you may be taken less seriously. That’s not limited to TV, either.
By the way, ebay is a great place to purchase new, expensive suits that aren’t expensive.
I suspect that Ossmann’s replacement, Mike Francis, will be a great success in this market. As WXIA brought in Francis, it gave Ossmann as graceful an exit as possible. He got a nice on-air tribute on his last day. Many TV stations might have been inclined to allow an involuntarily separated anchor to simply slip off, unacknowledged. The onair sendoff was a tad awkward yet very decent and humane. Because I was on vacation, I missed the newsroom sendoff. I understand it was very heartfelt.
Ossmann departed with a lot of class, and a lot of personal issues. He told Ho he’s getting a real estate license, but the dude was made for TV. I’m rooting for him to make a comeback, and I know I’ve got plenty of company.
The first comment will be the four thousandth comment on this blog. But I’m not making it easy! I’m disinclined to accept blunt-force WXIA management-bashing comments on this post. Please strive to make clever, thoughtful comments. Or make it rhyme! Feel free to clobber me, of course, unless it’s done to backhandedly bash my bosses. I’m on to your game! Save the ugly crapola for the AJC blog. And as always, thank you for reading LAF.