The writing has been on the teleprompter ever since WTHR-TV lured away WISH-TV’s prognosticator, Angela Buchman.
The move raised the question whether the popular Buchman and WTHR Channel 13’s current chief meteorologist, Chris Wright, could share the same spotlight. Now, it appears that Wright is leaving WTHR at the end of July to make room for Buchman, who will start tracking the weather again in September.
NewsBlues, an industry insider report, on Wednesday quoted Wright as saying that WTHR offered him a “huge pay cut and a reduced role.”
Wright told NewsBlues that he thought it was better to leave WTHR and to go look for work elsewhere.
Wright could not be reached for comment Wednesday. WTHR officials did not return phone calls or emails.
Local TV industry sources have said for months it would be hard to envision how Wright could hang on as lead meteorologist at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. after Buchman joins WTHR.
That Wright would leave WTHR is no surprise to Bill Perkins, a media buyer and a principal of Indianapolis-based Perkins Nichols Media. “No, you’re only going to promote one star,” Perkins said Wednesday.
Buchman has been off the air for the last year, as per her non-compete agreement with WISH Channel 8.
Wright likely would have the same constraint under his contract with WTHR, assuming he’d stay in the local market.
Might he return to his former employer, WISH, where he worked from 1996 to 1999? “We are fully staffed right now with Indiana’s largest team of meteorologists,” said WISH-TV’s director of creative services, Scott Hainey, on Wednesday.
Some observers said WTHR likely had to lure Buchman away from WISH with a salary rivaling that of a veteran anchor, which can be in the $300,000 to $400,000 territory.
“I think you could assume they didn’t hire Angela to do the midday show,” said Rick Gevers of Rick Gevers and Associates, which represents TV news talent at stations around the U.S.
Wright is a 10-time Emmy winner, having joined WTHR in 1999 after leaving WISH. Wright entered the Indianapolis market in 1991 at WXIN-TV Fox59.
Last year, Wright was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Lower Great Lakes Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and is the first African-American from the Indianapolis market so honored.
He also hosts WTHR’s “The Brain Game” high school quiz show.
It’s unclear whether WTHR will see a ratings backlash from Wright’s fans. That prospect is probably minimized, Gevers reckoned, because it appears WTHR did try to retain Wright—albeit at less lucrative terms.
“The fact that they offered him a job should ease that angst,” he said.
The migration of Buchman from WISH to WTHR created an upper-level disturbance in the local TV climate.
WISH-TV responded by hiring Robb Ellis, a meteorologist who cut his teeth on tornadoes and hurricanes while working TV gigs and as a research scientist for the state climate office in North and South Carolina.
CBS-affiliate WISH also has Angela’s understudy, of sorts, in the young meteorologist Pamela Gardner.
Phil Bremen, an assistant professor of telecommunications at Ball State University and a former WRTV-Channel 6 anchor, put the industry into perspective: "Television news is a business, and it's always been a tough one."
"The public's growing variety of media choices means that, more than ever, TV bosses will be striving for every advantage they can get," Bremen said. "If they can lure a star player away from the competition, that's doubly advantageous. But, whenever that happens, whoever was already in the chair knows there's a great risk of being squeezed out of it."
Wright has served the Indianapolis market with distinction and grace, Bremen said. "I have no doubt he'll land well."