Longtime chief meteorologist Greg Fishel no longer works for WRAL-TV, the station announced in an on-air statement Wednesday evening. The company cited a “personnel matter” as the reason for Fishel’s departure.
The statement was read by anchor Debra Morgan at the end of Wednesday’s 6 p.m. newscast.
“We have a difficult announcement to share with you tonight, involving a longtime member of our WRAL family. We need to let you know that chief meteorologist Greg Fishel is no longer with the company due to a personnel matter. Greg has asked that we share a written statement with you and you can find that in its entirety on wral.com.”
Fishel’s statement cited “personal challenges over the last year,” which he says have impacted his “ability to work effectively and professionally.”
In an interview on Wednesday, WRAL vice president and general manager Joel Davis declined to give specifics regarding Fishel’s departure, but said that “the way it played out it would have been impossible for him to continue here, but he offered up his resignation. … At the end of the day what I can say is that it was imperative from my point of view that it be clear that this was due to a personnel matter. This is something that was not the station’s doing.”
Fishel has been off the air since Jan. 29, Davis said.
Fishel’s statement reads in full: “I want to let viewers of WRAL know that you will no longer see me as a part of the WRAL News team. I know there will be many questions as to ‘why?’ and I would like to share what I can with you. I have been facing many personal challenges over the last year and these issues have impacted my ability to work effectively and professionally. I take full responsibility for my actions and intend on meeting these challenges head on. WRAL-TV has accepted my resignation.”
Beyond his statement, Fishel was not available to comment, but he did post a message on his Facebook page late Wednesday night thanking people for their support. The message was on Fishel’s private Facebook page, but the post was public:
“I am absolutely overwhelmed and humbled by the number of supportive messages i have received tonight. I just want you all to know what a privilege and honor it has been to come into your homes for all or part of the last 37+ years. And i want you to know that WRAL is still the best television station in the country, not only because of the product it produces, but by the people it employs. God is leading me in a new direction. For years i have stated that i trust God, but i wonder if that statement was more intellectually based than from the heart. Now i want to learn how to truly walk with God each day and trust Him to lead me in the direction i need to go. He’s blessed me in so many ways for almost 62 years. I hope and pray that there are at least a few more blessings to come. Thank you all again so much for your love and support!”
Fishel took a leave of absence last year
Fishel, WRAL’s most prominent on-air personality and a nationally known meteorologist, took what the station described as a medical leave of absence last year from early February until March 22. When he returned, Fishel handled weather on the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, leaving meteorologist Mike Maze, who had filled in for Fishel during the absence, in the 11 p.m. slot.
After that 2018 departure, Fishel posted a statement on WRAL’s website thanking viewers for their support. He ended with: “I am rested and ready to get back at it. Maybe I can even harness a few snowflakes this weekend! So it’s time to get back on the horse, and not be saddled by anything but positive thoughts.”
Nearly 4 decades at WRAL
Fishel, 61, started at WRAL in 1981 and began winning American Meteorological Society awards just a few years later. In 1989, Fishel took over the chief weather spot from Bob DeBardelaben.
Fishel is a native of Pennsylvania and a proud alum of Penn State, where he earned his meteorology degree. He shared a kindred spirit with his Southern viewers, delighting in forecasts that called for snow — sometimes visibly giddy as he ran through weather models. Once, when his prediction for snow was wrong, he sat in the WRAL fountain, wet and shivering in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt in the middle of winter.
Greg Fishel’s fans — and there are many — can also tell you he’s a big fan of the NY Mets, he plays the tuba, and loves a pun.
In 2015, Fishel made news when he changed his opinions on climate change. He told a group of journalists and scientists at a climate change conference in Beaufort that year that he had been a “hard core skeptic” but that several years earlier he had decided he had not been open-minded about the topic. Fishel’s new view is that it’s likely humans are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere in ways that increase temperatures.
“Why have we chosen to turn our back on science when it comes to basic chemistry and physics?” Fishel wrote in a blog post following the conference. “It is time to stop listening to the disingenuous cherry-pickers and start taking responsibility for learning the truth about climate change.”
Fishel has been open in Facebook posts about various struggles. In 2017, he wrote about how playing golf with his son (Fishel and his wife Kathy have two sons) turned too competitive and that a hobby he started for enjoyment was causing him to come home angry, so he was quitting the game.
Fishel wrote: “I simply cannot do this anymore. Maybe more time with the tuba, or develop some new hobby I’m not even aware of as I write this. I am very aware of the fact that a lot of people suffer when I’m down in the dumps, like everyone around me! I owe it to them as well as myself to find something that brings me fulfillment as opposed to frustration, and happiness instead of sadness.”
Who will be the new chief?
Davis said the station, owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company, has not yet decided who will take on the role of chief meteorologist, but he is confident with the talent on staff.
“We’re really fortunate that we have a really strong bench,” Davis said. “Elizabeth Gardner is immensely popular in the mornings. Mike (Maze) is incredibly popular in the evenings. We don’t know for sure what structure we’ll put together with that ... We’re going to have some conversations internally with folks about interest and what they want as next steps in their careers.
“I think it’s safe to say we’re better situated than most stations in the country are to lose someone of Greg’s popularity, because the bench is so strong,” Davis continued. “We’ve got some really good talent even deeper down on the bench that will grow in the system, too.”
Fishel’s exit comes less than a month after WRAL anchor David Crabtree read an on-air statement at the end of a newscast about an inappropriate relationship that cost him his position as a member of the clergy in the Episcopal Church. Crabtree, who is divorced, had been an ordained deacon at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh. Crabtree continues to anchor the 6 p.m. newscast. At the time, Davis told The News & Observer it was “a personal matter that is between him and the Episcopal church. He will continue his long career here at WRAL. His statement speaks for itself.”