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Too Tall firing created storm

Red River Valley TV news watchers sounded off after former KVLY meteorologist Tom "Too Tall" Szymanski was dismissed by the station this fall. The 15-year KVLY veteran was fired from the NBC affiliate Sept. 24 after his final 10 p.m. newscast. He...

Red River Valley TV news watchers sounded off after former KVLY meteorologist Tom "Too Tall" Szymanski was dismissed by the station this fall.

The 15-year KVLY veteran was fired from the NBC affiliate Sept. 24 after his final 10 p.m. newscast. He said the station's Dallas-based owner, Hoak Media Corp., called for his dismissal.

Szymanski's departure sparked an outcry of support from those who watched him deliver the weather - often in animated ways.

For example, he described 22-degree temperatures as "highs near double deuces" and on windy days, he even warned viewers to "hold on to your hats and/or toupees."

Some Szymanski fans wrote letters to The Forum saying they would boycott KVLY. Others voiced their concerns over Fargo-Moorhead's radio airwaves.

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Three months later, Szymanski is still on many residents' minds.

Earlier this month, Forum online readers voted his firing as the top hot-button story for 2007. News events nominated for recognition left readers talking about them for days, if not weeks.

"Wow, just a big wow. ... I'm surprised," Szymanski said about his story topping the polls. "In a way, I'm flattered."

"So now I'm a 'hot button'?" he added while laughing.

One letter to The Forum stated KVLY is "not this Valley household's choice any longer."

Charley Johnson, general manager of KVLY and Fargo's CBS affiliate KXJB, said the voters' choice did not catch him off guard. Both TV stations share news staff and management.

"Nothing surprises me," Johnson said of the designation. "It was covered heavily by the media... Tom was a well-liked member of our staff."

By mid-December, The Forum's Sept. 26 story "KVLY's 'Too Tall' shown the door" garnered more than 20,500 views on the newspaper's Web site, www.inforum.com , making it the third most popular story in 2007. A brief online story - breaking the news of Szymanski's firing one day earlier - ranked 13th with over 14,500 views.

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"Some people may be glad I'm gone - who knows - but also maybe it's reflective of the fact that people were shocked by what happened," Szymanski said. "I never really had a chance to say goodbye."

Szymanski has since taken up another TV meteorologist gig in Bismarck at CBS affiliate KXMB. He started Nov. 7.

"Life's been good; Bismarck's been really nice," he said of his new job.

When he's not in front of the camera, Szymanski gives presentations in Bismarck area schools like he did in Fargo-Moorhead. He said he's also considering teaching broadcasting or meteorology to college students in the Bismarck area.

KVLY has since hired Hutch Johnson, the former KXMB weatherman, making the moves an unofficial case of "meteorologist swap."

One negative part of Szymanski's new move is his weekend commutes, he said. He bunks in a Bismarck apartment during the week, but commutes to Moorhead on the weekends where his girlfriend and her children live.

He continues to deliver radio weathercasts for a few stations, including Fargo's KFGO.

"A part of me is still here," Szymanski said.

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Radio stations in Bemidji, Minn., and Bangor, Maine - where he worked before KVLY - also carry Szymanski's weathercasts. His day roughly begins at 6 a.m. and does not end until after the 10 p.m. news.

"I don't get tired of it," Szymanski said of his radio-TV schedule. "I'm doing what I want to do."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Benny Polacca at (701) 241-5504

Too Tall firing created storm Benny Polacca 20071230

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