Don Paul has been a success at every stop in his long career as a television meteorologist, including almost 30 years at WIVB Channel 4 in Buffalo.
But he just can't seem to get the hang of retirement.
Paul, who has been writing periodic columns for The Buffalo News since shortly after leaving Channel 4 in the spring, this weekend will return to the medium he knows best when he goes to work at WKBW Channel 7 as a fill-in meteorologist. He is expected to be Channel 7’s meteorologist on weekend nights and may do vacation fill-in work and appear during storm coverage.
His first appearance on camera Sunday will make him the only person to have worked as an on-air weather forecaster on all three Buffalo TV stations, having also spent three years at WGRZ Channel 2.
Paul, 69, who recently was announced as a new inductee to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame, agreed to answer some questions via email as he prepares to make his return to the airwaves. (How could he say no? After all, he wants to keep writing columns for us.)
You have been off the air for a little more than five months. That’s the longest stretch that you have not been doing the weather on TV in Buffalo since BEFORE Ronald Reagan’s second term began. I guess it’s safe to say you really like your job.
Just be aware I'm speaking my responses because I am out on a weekday bike ride. That's something I couldn't do when I was working full-time. And yes, I have enjoyed my job for the vast majority of the time I've been doing it. And that totals up to nearly 40 years if you count 32 years here, five years in Detroit, a year in Tampa, a year in Wichita, and a few months in Bangor Maine.
You never ruled out returning to TV, but did you think it would be this soon? Did you hope it would be this soon?
I knew it might be this soon during the spring because of some nice friendly outreach directed toward me. The lazy side of me was enjoying all the freedom. But the meteorologist side of me hasn't lost interest in my profession. Now, in addition to writing for you folks, I think it's about time to do some of what I believe I still know how to do. And to make every effort to do it as well as I did in the past. It's a bad idea to start taking shortcuts on the forecasting process. There are enough ways for things to go awry even when you're giving it all you got. The on-air part of my job never stopped being fun and stimulating for me, since weathercasting is all ad lib. There is no Teleprompter for us. Keeps us on our toes with no script to follow. And when it works, it's fun!
Do you think it would have killed you to have been off during a winter? Let's face it: The weather over the last few months has been nice but not as interesting as one of our epic winters.
Yes and no. Yes, I'd miss the forecast challenge and communicating with the public. It's a chance to provide a valuable service and it can be gratifying. But it would also be nice to sit back, relax, and watch a snowstorm. Not just on radar, either. Being able to stay put and use those windows to watch nature can be very, very nice.
How do you like the idea of being the only person ever to have been a meteorologist on all three local stations?
It wasn't a goal. Maybe it was kismet. As far as I know only the two DPs have completed the hat trick: Paul and Postles.
Are you nervous? Even a little?
I definitely will be nervous Sunday, at least until I get that first cast done. Knowing me, I will be more than a little nervous. It's a new station with a new format, new co-anchors, new and better weather graphics with new complexity, and there is uncertainty about the level of my first performance. WKBW is making me feel very welcome, but I'm sure they have their own level of expectations. The first show is always the most nerve-racking.
It would be fair to suggest you don’t have anything left to prove, which might take some of the pressure off. It doesn’t sound like you agree with that.
That does take some pressure off, true. There is still my own self-imposed pressure to prove I can get into the same rhythm I had and feel as comfortable in my broadcast skin as I used to feel. To be able to have some fun, explain things in an understandable way without talking down to the audience.
Do you think you will willingly retire/walk away from TV again? If it were up to you alone, how many more years would you stay on the air?
Both of those questions are difficult to answer. I think I will know when and if I'm slipping, and the quality of my work starts to suffer. There are contractual obligations to consider. I'm carrying more weight and less hair than I had some time back, but my forecasting and broadcasting abilities were still pretty consistent. I enjoy good health. If abilities and health were to begin to go downhill, then it would be time to make a graceful exit from the on-air scene.
I honestly haven't given much thought about how many more years I'd like to stay on the air. Maybe all the working out I've been doing at the gym since May will help keep me energized. And maybe I'll begin to succeed in eating more healthy so it LOOKS like I've been working out. Muscle tone under a suit can't hide a double chin, after all.