There’s a blogstorm a-brewing (here, here, here) over the sudden end to University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass’s appearance on KUOW’s Weekday program, hosted by Steve Scher. Mass announced the news on his blog: “No More Weather on KUOW Weekday.” (Yes, the “Reinstate Cliff” Facebook page is up.)
Mass have been doing a forecast/weather 101 segment for the last 15 years for KUOW, occasionally discussing things he saw as related to meteorology (science training, for instance), but a few years ago, he brought up “the problem of declining math skills” and what he saw as the problem: “the proliferation of discovery (‘fuzzy’) math books and the poor instruction by the Schools of Education, including the UW.”
His producer told him the UW School of Education had complained about Mass’s remarks, and told him they couldn’t have him talking about math without giving the “other side.” (Apparently weather has just the one side.) Promised separate time to talk about math education, Mass agreed to hold his tongue on the weather segment, though he says the promised programs never appeared.
Recently, fate handed him the opportunity to give the other side to a story from the Seattle Times about in-state students refused UW admission, “Why straight As may not get you into the UW this year,” which laid the blame strictly on the economics of out-of-state tuition.
As Seattle Times op-ed journalist Joni Balter also appears on KUOW, Mass challenged her on her op-ed (“A slow burn for worthy state students snubbed by the University of Washington“), arguing that from his personal knowledge and from speaking with the Dean of Admissions, the UW “does not reject strong straight A students–if someone with an A average gets rejected it is because there was an issue–easy classes, poor SATs scores, or the like.”
After the show, Mass’s producer emailed him a warning that if he went off-topic again, the segment would be terminated. (“Ohhh, caught off topic talking about education on a university radio station!!” responds a retired operations researcher/blogger.)
Mass said he couldn’t guarantee that he’d stick narrowly to weather, putting him even more at odds with KUOW, which had been less interested in the weather education side of his segment, shortening it, and asking that he just stick to the weekend weather forecast. If you’re wondering at Mass’s attitude, keep in mind he has been volunteering his time for those 15 years, knowing full well that for other meteorologists, weather forecasting is paying arrangement.
Then came the email announcing the segment’s termination.
(Sidebar: By chance, the news broke the same day that Comcast’s attempt to pull the plug on funding for Seattle’s Reel Grrls backfired. After a Reel Grrls tweet expressed outrage that FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker was leaving the FCC for Comcast just four months after voting to approve the NBC/Comcast merger, the Washington Region’s VP of Communications emailed Reel Grrls to tell them their grant funding was being revoked for “slamming” the cable company. As it happened VP Kipp ended up slamming his company more, when the story was picked up by the Washington Post–media inquiries to Comcast were met with the news that the non-profit’s funding was being restored.)
Speaking of tweets, I’ve asked KUOW via Twitter if they have a statement, but nothing yet.
UPDATE: Publicola reached host Steve Scher, who says: “Although we value Cliff’s opinion I do not want the weather segment to become an opinion and views segment. Every Weekday we use a full hour to take up controversial issues which brings many voices with a variety of opinions and views.” Full statement here, a brimful example of Seattle-brand conflict avoidance.
Commenters on Mass’s blog express support for both his Plan B (to perhaps develop a podcast) and for making lemons out of KUOW lemonade, by using this contretemps to advocate for more education coverage on public radio. After all, it can’t be the case that the University of Washington’s College of Education would prefer that no one discuss education methodology if it doesn’t align with the school’s preferences at a given moment. I simply won’t let myself believe it.