WTAE-TV noon and 5 p.m. meteorologist Don Schwenneker will leave the station Dec. 31 for a job at WBBM in Chicago, a larger TV market. His last day at Channel 4 will be Dec. 31.
News director Bob Longo announced the departure Friday, saying, "We are saddened to see Don leave. He has been a big part of our success over the years, in each and every role he has held here."
"Every role" is the key phrase. Schwenneker joined WTAE from WTAJ in Altoona/Johnstown in 2000 as a weekend weathercaster and in 2002 became the station's lead forecaster at 6 and 11 p.m. weeknights, unseating Joe DeNardo's heir apparent, Stephen Cropper. Schwenneker also took over the station's signature school visits.
In March 2005, the roles reversed: Cropper was back in the lead meteorologist role at 6 and 11 p.m. while Schwenneker was relegated to the lower-rated noon news and a role in the 5 p.m. newscast. Cropper also took back the school visits.
Through the stormy weather center changes, Cropper and Schwenneker always took the high road. If there was any acrimony, it never showed on air.
Schwenneker brought a folksy charm to his on-air performance and carried it over to an online blog where he offered recipes.
Although his roles could easily be absorbed at noon by morning meteorologist Demetrius Ivory and at 5 p.m. by Cropper, Longo said he plans to hire another meteorologist to take Schwenneker's place.
Schwenneker, who will become weekend evening meteorologist at Chicago's CBS-owned station, said he wasn't looking to leave Pittsburgh's Channel 4, but with family in the Midwest, Chicago was one of the few locales that beckoned to him.
"My wife is from the Chicago area and I have three nieces two hours south of there and I've never been to their birthday parties," said Schwenneker, who grew up in and has family in Des Moines, Iowa. "My family will be only four hours away as opposed to 14. Every time I had a vacation week here, instead of taking the kids to Disneyland or to see the sights, we'd spend it driving to Iowa and Illinois and Wisconsin."
Schwenneker said Chicago has always been a fantasy market to work in, but, he said, "I never thought I'd get a shot at it."
His contract at WTAE was up at the end of the year, but they'd made him an offer to stay.
"My wife and I love Pittsburgh, and the truth is I thought I'd stay here the rest of my career," he said. The WBBM job arose just a few weeks ago when his agent called with word of interest from the Chicago station. After November sweeps ended last week, he flew to Chicago for an interview and got the job offer early last week.
"The only reason to leave our life here is to get closer to family. It's hard raising two kids so far away and having their grandparents say, 'Oh, they're growing up in pictures.' "
(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor)
"Medium" returns to NBC in its original time slot, 10 p.m. Monday, starting Jan. 7. Game show "Deal or No Neal" will also return to Mondays, airing at 9 p.m. now that "Heroes" has wrapped its current chapter and awaits the end of the writers' strike to resume production.
A few days ago, hopes were high that a deal to end a costly five-week strike by thousands of Hollywood writers was imminent.
But optimism that writers and producers would soon sign a new pact all but crumbled Friday, as talks broke down and the sides blamed each other for the stalled negotiations that have sidelined many prime-time and late-night TV shows.
"We're puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing [Writers Guild of America] negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike," the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement.
In response, the guild said the chief alliance negotiator, Nick Counter, slammed the door on bargaining after presenting an ultimatum and before the union could respond to his latest proposal regarding crucial new-media compensation issues.
"As we prepared our counteroffer, at 6:05 p.m., Nick Counter came and said to us, in the mediator's presence, 'We are leaving. When you write us a letter saying you will take all these items off the table, we will reschedule negotiations with you,' " according to a union statement.
A detailed alliance announcement on the talks' collapse was released a short time later.
A letter the guild said it received from Counter said negotiations could resume only after the guild removed a half-dozen demands.
Last week, the sides had expressed their first hint of optimism. But on Friday, it appeared that the industry's first walkout in 20 years was far from being resolved.
(Lynn Elber, Associated Press)