WGN’s Paul Konrad offers deep look into his career on the “It’s Not So Late Show” with Aaron Hanania
Nine time Emmy Award winning weatherman Paul Konrad talks about his career from news reporting to meteorology, his colleagues, and why the combination of serious news reporting and a strong edge of humor has made WGN Morning News the top-rated news program in Chicagoland during an appearance this week on the “It’s Not So Late Show” with Aaron Hanania. (Full video below)
Paul Konrad, the 9-time Emmy Award winning Weather anchor for the WGN Morning News, said he left the news role and became a meteorologist after being interviewing a mother who had just lost her son to gun violence.
Only 22-years-old at the time, Konrad said he felt disturbed and shamed to ask the distraught and grieving mother about her son’s death as the boy’s body was on the front lawn of the woman’s home.
The experience changed his life and his career, he said during a wide-ranging interview on the “It’s Not So Late Show” with Aaron Hanania this week.
“I showed up with my camera and there was this 16-year-old boy dead on the front lawn of this house and his mother and sister were in hysterics and I pulled up with my camera to take pictures of it and I was supposed to interview the mom or get some sound from there,” Konrad said, noting the mother and daughter were distraught and he felt shamed by the assignment.
“I was disturbed. … It was disturbing and sad to see all of this in front of me, right? Then I’m thinking, ah, somehow or another I have to talk to this lady who is in hysterics. And she has just lost everything. And I am going to go ask her for an interview, to talk to me in the middle of all of this? It just didn’t sit well with me. This blows! I’m not going to do that.”
Reporting back to his editor without interviewing the mother, he was told to go back or be fired.
Konrad went back, apologized to the mother for asking about the killing, got the story, and soon left the news side of the business switching to meteorology at the encouragement of a friend who worked in the weather department in 1988.
“I’m a tender-hearted guy and my heart was broken for this woman and her daughter,” Konrad said during the interview.
“At the end of the day, I said screw this. I have to get out of this business.”
Konrad said he isn’t criticizing hard-edged journalists who go into tragedy and set aside their emotions in interviews with families of victims. But he said some journalists “are just wired differently.”
“That was the beginning of me getting out of hard news and really beginning to pursue forecasting. It turned out to be a pivotal day for me in the long term of my career because it moved me ultimately into the weather side of things which has lasted me a good 20 or 30 years,” Konrad said of that assignment.
Today, Konrad is one of several meteorologists for WGN TV, appearing during the morning news segment with anchors Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten, and sports reporter Pat Tomasulo where the hard news reports are often mixed with humorous segments. That formula works and has put the WGN Morning News at the top of TV ratings.
Recent ratings show WGN Morning News finished the February sweeps in the Number 1 spot with Adults between the ages of 25 and 54 (at 4 am, 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, and 9 am) widening the gap with other TV competition in each hour.
The ratings also show WGN News at 7 am grew its Adult 25 to 54 ratings by 6 percent compared to the year before, allowing the WGN Morning News show to continue its 10-year reign as the Number 1 rated news program from 6 to 9 am with Adults aged 25 to 54.
“I think that news you can get it anywhere. Right? You can get it on your phone. I get it primarily off my phone. People want information. But I also think they don’t want to be beat up every morning with the worst news of the day. You want to be informed about what’s going on. You want the information. You want to know weather and traffic. But you also don’t want to, at the end of watching the news cast, feel like you need to go run out into traffic to off-yourself because the day is filled with such miserable news,” Konrad said.
“I think what we have been trying to do here for a while now is to provide this alternative where we’re gonna give you the content that you need to know. We also are going to try to have some fun along the way and try to do this entertainment personality-driven show. And it’s been successful. It’s crazy that it’s been on for like 26 or 27 years and it has had the success that it has had, but I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
Konrad started at WGN-TV in 1996 after working in newsrooms in Tampa Bay, Montgomery, Alabama and Chicagoland Television News (CLTV). He currently anchors the 6-10 am segment of WGN Morning News providing weather reports and bantering with the show’s morning team.
Konrad credited the morning show’s high ratings to the “magic of the show” and the talent of his colleagues who called “savvy improvisors.” He also credited the morning news show’s “great producers.”
“We don’t rehearse, and I think that maybe helps us,” Konrad said.
“Robin Baumgarten … she can talk for three days if you want her to, about – you pick a topic. She has this personality that is so winsome and authentic.”
Then there is “snarky Pat Tomasulo” who Konrad said is willing to take the opposing side to make the show work.
“Everybody on our show knows that we care for, trust and respect each other. We can make fun of Robin, which we love to do, because she knows that in real life and ultimately that we authentically do care for her,” Konrad said noting he began working with Baumgarten 28 years ago.
“The other part of it is that none of us take ourselves so seriously that you can’t joke about us. … We are all very fortunate … We care for each other.”
Konrad also spent much time talking about public perceptions of meteorologists and the stereotype of getting the weather wrong, although he credits himself with a great record of 83 percent accuracy, attributing a lot of it to his talented co-workers including Tom Skilling.
“Here in Chicago, people think the weatherman is wrong 75 to 85 percent of the time. I have kept track over the years and I think I am 83 percent accurate, regularly,” Konrad said laughing.
“The other benefit that we have is that I work in the same offices of Tom Skilling who is like the God of weather in Chicago and he is so widely respected around the world that there is this kind of responsibility where we really need, surprisingly, a lot of times, think it through, how do we make sure we don’t screw this forecast up and get it as close as we can get. And that ultimately is our number one priority.”
Confessing the job can be stressful, he added, “We have a responsibility here that if you don’t get this information right, people’s lives are at risk. That weighs heavily on all of us.”
In addition to doing the Weather, Konrad also hosts the “Courtesy Desk” segment produced by Jeff Hoover, where he takes viewer suggestions and ideas and passes them along to his on—air colleagues for approval, and occasionally, disapproval. He also started the “Pedicab” interviews during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Skilling is just an amazing guy. It is so cool to work in an office with this guy who has a mind like I have never experienced in anybody before,” Konrad said, adding Skilling has a “brilliance and an amazing memory recall.”
Another favorite is bringing elementary school kids in to do the weather called “Friday Forecaster.”
“(There is) a good deal of suspense and unpredictability on how a 7-year-old is going to handle themselves being on TV. They could have a meltdown. They could say something they are not supposed to say. For me that is the fun of that segment,” said Konrad who is the father of four.
Konrad revealed he doesn’t watch much TV or movies, and that his favorite movie is “Walking Ed Devine,” which he confesses is “not that great.”
You can listen to the entire 35-minute interview with WGN’s Meteorologist Paul Konrad by visiting the “It’s Not So Late Show” with Aaron Hanania online at TheItsNotSoLateShow.com, and on Instagram and TikTok at ItsNotSoLateShow.
The “It’s not so Late show” with Aaron Hanania showcases the stories of people who are doing amazing things from a young journalist’s perspective.
Use this link to watch the full interview on YouTube or use the widget below to play the interview from this webpage.
Follow Paul Konrad on Twitter @PaulKonrad; on Instagram @WGNKondrad; and on Facebook at WGNPaulKonrad.
Get the latest podcasts and reports from the WGN Morning News Team at this link: wgntv.com/morning-news/
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