By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed January 27, 2014
Mike Francis, chief meteorologist at the NBC affiliate 11 Alive here since the summer of 2011, has left the station.
Why? I am not 100% sure but I'm told he was taken off air before his contract was up. He has not found a new gig that I know of so this was not a voluntary departure.
I first reported this news Monday afternoon. Later in the day, the 11 Alive Facebook page confirmed the news when someone inquired:
Thanks for writing. Mike Francis is no longer at 11Alive. Veteran meteorologist Chris Holcomb 11Alive will be taking over the weeknight weather duties. We’re currently doing a nationwide search for a world class meteorologist to join Chris, Chesley McNeil 11Alive and Allison Chinchar 11Alive to ensure you’ll always have the weather information you need to keep you informed and safe.
His work Facebook page has not been updated since Jan. 10, the last time he was on air. (They are going to disconnect it soon.) But he still has his own here, which he is updating on a regular basis
He is also Tweeting on his own Twitter address (@MikeFrancisWX) about the weather as if nothing is happening. He has about 4,400 followers.
When I reached him by phone Monday, Francis said, "Everything is fine. My wife is calling me. I need to call you back." (He didn't call me back.)
UPDATE 1/30/14: On Facebook, the following week, he later again declined to comment, referring me to his attorney Rick Carr, who could only say he's looking for employment, preferably in Atlanta, but isn't sure he'd be able to get out of his non-compete clause and join another station sooner.
There have been plenty of rumors I've heard about why Francis was let go but due to the separation agreement, it's clear Francis has been paid to keep his mouth shut. Carr did say it wasn't an official "firing." So what was it? A forced resignation? Possibly.
Multiple sources told me that on Saturday, January 11, when a major storm was coming into Atlanta, most of the staff was in the building at 6 a.m. - except Francis, their main weather person. He didn't respond to calls for six hours. By the time noon rolled around when he finally responded, he was suspended and soon off the air permanently. Clearly, that was not the only reason why he lost his gig but it seems to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
His former bosses have not gotten back to me about the situation. That alone makes it clear this was not a very clean departure.
An insider told me Holcomb, a long-time weekend meteorologist, has been angling for the weekday job for a long time.
In an interview soon after he arrived, Francis told me how much he loved the weather ever since he was a child. A self-described adrenaline junkie, he was a tornado chaser in the past as well, spending 10 years at an affiliate in Little Rock, Ark. He has seen more than 40 tornados live. General manager John Deushane at the time said he had a "fire in the belly" for weather.
Indeed, his passion for the weather is readily apparent on both the TV and his blog and social media entries.