2011 flashback: former 11 Alive weather forecaster Paul Ossmann has had a rough summer

By Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com, filed August 11, 2011

Paul Ossmann's life appears to have crumbled like a building under siege by a raging torrent of flood water.

The TV weather personality filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in February. He lost his $900,000 Alpharetta home to foreclosure last month. He and his wife Faith separated at the same time. And on July 22, 11 Alive (WXIA-TV) let him go after 13 years at the station.

But Ossmann, 54, is not a man to drown in bitterness, especially toward his former employer.

"I don't regret anything," he said over lunch recently at the busy Jason's Deli at Cumberland Mall. "11 Alive gave me a great opportunity. I have great friends there."

Amiable and approachable, Ossmann may not have the gravitas and expertise of Glenn Burns at Channel 2 Action News or the steady longevity of Ken Cook at Fox 5. But he has his share of fans.

Dave Cohen, an Atlanta actor, said Ossmann came across as "genuine. Hated those ridiculous shirt collars he used to wear but enjoyed his sincerity in presenting the weather."

Shawn Reynolds, a producer at the Weather Channel, worked with Ossmann while he was at 11 Alive from 2005 to 2009. "I always felt confident that we were given the right forecast when he was on the air," he said. "He's always willing to try new things. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat."

And his 11 Alive buddies check up with him regularly to make sure he's okay. "I try to talk to him every day," said Ted Hall, 11 Alive morning anchor. "I send him Bible verses every once in awhile to help him out."

Ossmann said he received his first ever negative job evaluation last December. Research, he was told, indicated he wasn't as popular as he used to be. He also wasn't doing enough of his own graphics work.

A month later, management told him his contract would not be renewed when it was up in June. But the station gave him enough advance notice to give him time to seek another job. Unfortunately, none of the other local networks bit by the time his contract was up.

Ultimately, he said he wasn't sure why he was let go, but news director Ellen Crooke hired a more hard-nosed meteorologist in Mike Francis from Little Rock. Ark. The storm chaser's first day on air was August 8.

Ossmann wouldn't comment about Crooke and vice versa.

A Philadelphia native, Ossmann nabbed his first TV job in Abilene, Tx and after brief jaunts in Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala., found a job in Atlanta in 1988 at WAGA-TV. He started the same day as current 11 Alive evening anchor Brenda Wood. He became the original host of "Good Day Atlanta," then moved to WXIA in 1998.

With all his travails, Ossman took solace in his hobby, the shot put. He did it in high school and college and picked it up again in 2004 after covering track and field at the Titan Games. Since then, he's become a four-time national champion in the masters category and came in second last month in the World Masters Track and Field Championships. 11 Alive staffers nicknamed him "Big Swol" for his impressive physique.

"Even though I didn't excel and win, people who knew my situation supported me," he said. (He lost 25 pounds the past three months due to the stress.)

"The biggest muscle he has," said anchor Karyn Greer in an on-air tribute on Ossmann's final day, "is his heart." (See the tribute here.)

Ossmann is now by himself in a rental home for $900 a month in Acworth and living within his means, something he didn't do for years. He admits now that he was a blind optimist who let his wife handle the finances. (His bankruptcy filing in February indicated $83,525 in credit card debt and negative monthly cashflow despite his annual income of about $225,000.)

Despite his hardships, Ossmann said he feels a burden has been lifted. "I'm happier than I've been in a long time," he said. "I have my health and my two sons are healthy."

"The separation" from his wife, he acknowledged, "blindsided me." (Faith Ossmann didn't respond to an inquiry for comment.)

Ossmann plans to start taking classes next week to become a real estate agent, hardly a path many people would take in this day and age. But as a newscaster, he loved hobnobbing with fans. "Real estate gives me an opportunity to help some people who have been watching me for years," he said.

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By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog