A television favorite of many, Terry Swails was shown the door last week as weatherman for WQAD in Moline. Swails told the Quad-City Times that he had just returned from a few days' vacation for storm chasing, when he was told to turn in his keys and not come back to the television station.
Many got the story first locally from Bill Horrell, a Macomb native who is a fundraising and public relations executive in the Quad-Cities. "I wouldn't want to be the person answering the phone at WQAD TV today," he posted Friday on Facebook and then detailed Swails' dismissal.
This is the second time this has happened to Terry Swails and the reason was presumably the same each time. He is well-paid for his weather expertise and. when a manager is looking to cut costs, that salary is low-hanging fruit.
Swails was the top weathercaster for KWQC in Davenport for about 20 years. Then the station's group owner at the time, Young Broadcasting, went into bankruptcy and his paycheck turned him into a statistic.
The general manager of WQAD at that time was a believer in public loyalty to established personalities. He believed that audiences are built with familiar local faces.
That manager not only valued his TV 8 talent, he watched the personalities at the other Quad-Cities stations. When a veteran broadcaster got the ax because of economics, WQAD often offered him or her a job with the thought that those who liked watching that person would follow them to TV 8.
That was the case with Swails. But now there's a different general manager at the station, one that is apparently more bottom-line oriented.
This is a sad situation in many businesses where loyalty has gone out the window. It's not only, "What have you done for me today?" discounting past accomplishments. It's, "What can you do for me that I can't hire a new college graduate to do?"
Terry Swails is only the latest weather corpse at WQAD. Bob Stuart quit after being moved to weekends. Neil Kastor was forced into retirement. Anthony Peoples was fired and then picked up by WHBF in Rock Island.
Swails has an internet presence though, and some newspapers are interested in paying him directly to use his customized weather forecasts. I think his abilities and personality will lead him from last week's gloom into a sunny future with direct delivery of area weather.
Patrick Stout is a columnist and reporter for the McDonough County Voice. He can be reached at pstout@McDonoughVoice.com.