Tim Chuey: Weatherman, Entrepreneur, Community Asset
In 2009, Tim Chuey, then Chief Meteorologist for KVAL, was given notice of the station’s desire to move in a different direction. At 62, this could have been the “kiss of death” for his career. Yet Tim remains undaunted, reminding me of one of his favorite character actors, Burt Mustin (Dragnet, Happy Days and All in the Family), who started his show biz career at the age of 61. ”That surely means there is hope for all of us,” Tim says with a chuckle.
An unequivocally loquacious man, Tim has followed the same advice he gives to youngsters when he speaks in their schools. After asking if anyone in the room ever gets in trouble for talking in class, he says, ”As you are growing up, find a job where you can talk, or better yet, where they pay you to talk.” Tim’s voice is pleasing with a well-developed broadcast quality that he shares with me in a tagline he used in a commercial years ago, “Lebrun Cadillac, Pontiac and Oldsmobile, atop Bean’s Hill, Geneva, NY”. His announcers voice is silky smooth, a richer version of his natural speaking voice, with a laugh to match.
Tim is forthright about the oft-times cut-throat nature of being a television and radio personality. He was one of the well-known faces eased out of KVAL and KEZI from 2006 through 2009. John Fisher and Al Peterson also went through the “we won’t be renewing your contract” method of being fired. In fact, Tim shared that it’s not the first time in his career that he had to find a new gig. Prior to landing in Eugene 19 years ago, Tim had been a meteorologist at several different television stations throughout the country. “The TV station where I worked in Memphis, TN, was sold and they got rid of about 75% of the staff. I was one of them.” Not surprisingly, Tim takes the high road when he recalls his release from KVAL saying, “Since I had a personal services contract with the company they had every right to negotiate a new contract or not.” Reading between the lines, it’s clear that leaving the KVAL broadcast was a huge blow, but Tim refuses to say anything negative about being let go. Instead, he chooses to focus on moving forward and finding his own “new direction”.
He definitely has an insider’s view of television and strong opinions about the changes in local and national programming. KVAL and KMTR have brought in younger people, in hopes of attracting a younger audience, but according to Tim, they’ve made the wrong call. It is the older people watching television news, the younger audience turns to the internet for the information they are interested in. Pointing out that the 50 to 65 year old viewer has more discretionary income with greater flexibility to travel and spend money, “Sales totally missed that demographic,” he says. Unfortunately, as many of us have noticed, the new, younger broadcasters tend to have poorer grammar, often using slang, often not having the experience to make the right call or ask the right questions. The result is pushing older viewers away and hurting ratings, not helping.
A true renaissance man, Tim not only has a wealth of knowledge regarding the natural world along with climate and weather forecasting; but has a broad range of interests such as singing, culture, religion, health and well-being. In journalism school, they teach writers to never specialize, to remain versatile and able to write and communicate about a wide range of topics. Tim got that, and is more than a weatherman; he is a journalist with extensive training and a degree in Broadcast Meteorology, which technically isn’t even required to do the weather. In his final year at the University of Memphis, his Mass Communication Law professor was impressed by his final paper entitled, ”Obscenity and Indecency in Broadcasting“. He said to Tim, “Do you realize this is graduate quality work? Have you considered going to grad school?”. Tim reflects, “There was no way I could put my family through that”.
Weather broadcasting and meteorological forecasting is a lot harder than most people know, for the schedule is demanding and requires long days in which not only need to be prepared, you have to look good doing it. Once during his time in Indiana, on a beautiful spring day, Tim was out to do a live broadcast. The crew went to a nearby park where Tim shot the live teaser for the evening weather report. In the middle of the teaser a mosquito bit him on the forehead raising a welt. Four minutes later when they returned for the full live broadcast, the mosquitoes had swarmed him and continued to assault him throughout the entire segment. Tim ended up with over 50 bites on his face and neck and a decidedly swollen face. “I’ve always wanted to write a book about the wacky things that happen when broadcasting live,” he says with good humor. Amusing stories spill out of Tim, often accompanied by factual statistics that he can pull out of that formidable memory of his. The man loves his work and seems willing to try his hand at anything.
So how does a man who has lived and breathed meteorology and broadcast television reinvent himself after 17 years at KVAL? Apparently by accepting what has happened and moving on. Tim seems to be making that process an adventure. In one hand he has a website (www.timchueyweather4u.com) which offers forecasting, as well as consulting to businesses that depend on knowing weather conditions; in the other hand, a new business project: Synoptic Vibrations, LLC. – a dealer for Unwinder Innertainment; a company that specializes in innovative chairs designed to transmit sound through the body.
Launching a new business is a challenge at any time, but it is particularly difficult in a recession. After 2 years, the custom forecasting business is still in operation, but Tim says, “The challenge is the big guys are already with consultants in Portland and the smaller guys generally don’t have the money.” While radio broadcasting was always a possibility, Tim recalls what happened to Dan Mullen after he left KPNW. Dan went to KUGN but within a few months was let go. “ I know weather will always be a part of my life, though it is no longer my main occupation.” He continues to forecast the weather and is, in fact, the weatherman for the Eugene Daily News. “I am always interested in how nature works and, in particular, how modern technology is giving us increased knowledge for preparing, and methods for delivering more accurate forecasts.”
He is most enthusiastic however about his new venture with Synoptic Vibrations. “For 40 years, I’ve only sold myself,” says Tim, “why not sell a product I believe in?” This chair is different than other types of interactive devices that merely shake a person. A number of years ago, while hosting an Easter Seals Telethon, he was given the opportunity to take a tour over Eugene in a 1946 Steerman single-engine open-cockpit airplane. Relating it to his first time in the Unwinder chair, “They had me sit in the chair while viewing the opening scenes of “Pearl Harbor” where 2 young boys steal an airplane,” Tim says “I swear, the sensations I felt in the chair were exactly what I felt when I was over Eugene in the Steerman!”
“I feel very fortunate that I was able to do things that most people haven’t had the opportunity to do” Tim says. In daily life, people continue to recognize him, tell him that he did a great job, that they miss seeing him on the air and are always interested in what he is doing now. Who can say where the adventure will end? As Tim says, “You have to be walking the path to find the path. It’s up to me, that’s what makes it interesting.”
Tim’s career has been quite a ride. He’s tried, and succeeded, at many different aspects of broadcast television and radio. He’s an accomplished meteorologist, well respected in his field and he looks back on his career with great fondness and wonderful memories. One thing he is very clear about is that he and his family will remain in Eugene. “My wife and I fell in love with this area as soon as we moved here more than 19 years ago. Our children, as well as our grandchildren all live here as well.” It’s definitely a gain for Eugene that Tim has no intention of leaving. “We moved around many times over the years and have decided that this is our home.”
You can catch Tim’s weather forecasts and updates on the Eugene Daily News front page, and at timchueyweather4u.com.