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COMMENTARY

The long-range forecast for Don Paul at Channel 4 looks like it could get stormy

You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing in the TV news business.

The changes in the Channel 4 weather department that started Monday certainly make it appear that the long-term future of veteran meteorologist Don Paul is at the very least cloudy, with a chance that he is headed off into the sunset in a year or two.

That’s the primary conclusion to be drawn from my report Friday that, starting today, Paul will be sharing the important weekday newscasts with Todd Santos.

Paul isn’t allowed to talk to me. However, I suppose I owe him a thank-you for promoting my blog on Facebook over the weekend and shedding a tiny bit of light on the situation.

“I’ve had a number of private inquiries about changes coming to 4Warn Weather Monday, with details in Alan Pergament’s blog yesterday,” Paul wrote on Facebook on Saturday. “I can’t discuss any of it, but feel free to read his blog for the Buffalo News called ‘Talkin’ TV.’ ”

“You can comment on his blog,” added Paul later. “If you care to, that is.”

And then there was this bit of news: “Just want to say to some of you it is not in my plans to retire at this time.”

I’m not sure that Channel 4 executives will be too happy with Paul’s post, which solicited several comments of praise and support and some suggestions that Channel 4’s decision to have both Paul and Santos work the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts is a little silly.

I tend to agree with that sentiment, though I’m told it is done in some other markets and it follows Channel 7’s decision to have meteorologists Andy Parker and Autumn Lewandowski work together in the morning.

Santos’ promotion also has him taking the 5:30 and 10 p.m. weather slots that Paul used to do on a busy day. Mike Cejka, who had been working weekends, moved into Santos’ spot on “Wake Up!” on Monday morning.

The promotion of Santos from the mornings doing weather on “Wake Up!” isn’t surprising, since he was assumed to be Paul’s eventual replacement when he was hired in August 2013.

Paul’s statement that “it is not in my plans to retire at this time” ignores the fact that the plans of Channel 4 management supersede his plans no matter how popular he is with viewers or in audience research.

In other words, it is management’s call and not Paul’s on when his storied career at the station is going to end.

I’m told that Paul, who will turn 67 in a few months, has a contract than runs through March 2016, so he would appear to be safe until then.

But the promotion of Santos certainly makes it look like Paul’s current contract could be his last one as the station’s primary weatherman.

Western New York is known as a TV market that is resistant to change, so it isn’t surprising that Paul’s Facebook post led to so many messages of support. Viewers either love his sense of humor and his weather style or have tired of it.

The Facebook post might have been a good public relations move for Paul, but management has often been able to ignore public sentiment. That is especially true when it thinks it can save some money by eventually replacing someone as well paid as Paul has been over the years.

At least Paul is in a better situation than Channel 7’s popular meteorologist Mike Randall has been in the last year or so.

When Aaron Mentkowski replaced Randall as the meteorologist on the primary weathercasts, Randall moved to the mornings. Then Mentkowsky shared the mornings with Randall until he was exiled to the weekends in a schedule that reduced his hours. I still get emails from Randall’s fans asking me if he is even with the station.

In TV, the one thing that is as difficult to beat as Mother Nature is Father Time. And judging by his Facebook post, Paul is smart enough to realize that Santos’ promotion indicates Paul’s time in the local weather spotlight certainly could be ending sooner than he wants it to end.

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Kevin Sylvester’s morning program, “Hockey Hotline,” has been moved from the new HarborCenter restaurant (716) to WGR’s studios in Amherst. The Sabres say the move is being made to give the 10 a.m.-noon show more production support.

email: apergament@buffnews.com

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