By JENNIFER MOLK - For The Outpost
Every morning for the past four years, viewers across the region woke up with Marc Moraniec, the lively, enigmatic and humorous co-anchor and weatherman on KTVQ’s “Montana This Morning” show.
Mr. Moraniec often peppered his forecasts with pop cultural references (“Warm and windy, not Mork and Mindy”) and without fail every Friday morning wished his viewers a “Happy Fri-diddly Doo Dah Day.”
Mr. Moraniec happily took part in some of the anchoring duties, interviewing community pillars such as Sheryl Shandy of Billings Food Bank.
In those four years, Mr. Moraniec, who is 42 and has spent most of the past 20 years in broadcasting, was the one constant to the typical revolving door of his female co-anchor counterparts; he worked alongside four different co-anchors in as many years.
Mr. Moraniec actually signed on with Q2 eight years ago, and worked his way up to a set schedule, one not many would eagerly embrace, having to rise at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and turn in at 7 p.m.
And despite the trials and tribulations that come with working before live television, most notably standing outside in the frigid November frost, teeth chattering while pleading with viewers to donate a turkey during a month of Turkey Tuesdays, Mr. Moraniec was consistently bubbly and chipper and clearly loved his job.
So it was with shock and despair among some devoted viewers when all of a sudden, there was no more Marc Moraniec. Viewers wondered whether he was on vacation or, given the fickle business of television news, after days turned into weeks, he had been shuffled elsewhere in the lineup or inconceivably had the plug on his lengthy career with Q2 pulled altogether.
There was no formal announcement; only new faces behind the desk, morning after morning. Mr. Moraniec was gone like a flash of lightning. Surely if he’d left Q2 willingly, there would have been the customary video tribute and teary celebratory look back on such a distinguished career and loyal contribution to one station after eight years, wouldn’t there? Anchors and reporters who have served a far shorter time have received much more publicized and televised send-offs in years past.
Not so for Mr. Moraniec.
“After eight years, they decided not to renew my contract,” Mr. Moraniec stated. “I’ve had five contracts in that eight years; this would have been contract number six.”
So technically Mr. Moraniec wasn’t fired; his contract simply was not renewed. But anyone in the business knows it really means being “let go.”
“Something like this has never happened to anybody in the history of that building,” Mr. Moraniec said, still visibly awestruck at the way he was dismissed. “They leave Q2 when they get a job, when they change career fields, when they get married. People are not sent in the street, especially long-term veterans of eight years. So that was the shocking part. This is just not the Montana way.”
Mr. Moraniec said there was a uniformed security guard present when station managers demanded his keys and promptly ushered him out a back door.
The Billings Outpost contacted John Hurley, general manager of KTVQ, for comment on the situation regarding Mr. Moraniec, to which he tersely replied, “No, we don’t comment on our personnel. It’s not a part of our company policy.”
Bob McGuire, Q2’s chief meteorologist and Marc’s longtime friend and co-worker, stated when asked to comment on Mr. Moraniec’s plight, that the Q2 employees were given a prepared written statement to deliver when asked by the media to comment and could not comment otherwise for fear of being terminated. Mr. McGuire did not supply the written statement to the Outpost by press time.
These have something to say
But viewers aren’t shy about the recent developments surrounding their favorite weatherman.
Viewers promptly wrote letters to the station, emailed Mr. Moraniec himself, logged onto Facebook and even voiced their opinion to the Billings Outpost to express their shock:
“I was at the Custer graduation last spring and Mr. Moraniec was the speaker,” wrote Carol K. H. via Facebook. “He had mentioned that he was being let go from Q2. From then on I was writing to both TV stations wondering what was going on. To KULR-8 they would benefit in hiring Mr. Moraniec. Hope he finds his way back to the TV broadcasts!” (KULR-8, according to Mr. Moraniec, met with him several times to discuss a job offer, but ultimately told him they were at full staff).
From Penny L. via Facebook: “I’ve heard Mr. Moraniec on the air and think it’s a shame. Makes one wonder about the reasons (you would think a ‘good’ manager would have reason and be willing to explain his reasoning).”
And from Marie P. via email obtained from Mr. Moraniec: “I am very distressed to learn that you have failed to renew Marc Moraniec’s contract. I am a long time viewer of Q2 and a fan of Mr. Moraniec’s. His weather forecasts delivered with enthusiasm, charm and a touch of humor are the reason that I watch this station’s programming. Without Mr. Moraniec’s continued involvement in Q2, I will definitely stop tuning in to your station.”
And from the Billings Outpost mailbag came this from Judy A.: “I called KTVQ to inquire what happened to Marc. All they could tell me was he left; they didn’t know where he went and they wished him well. Where was his farewell so all his viewers would know what happened to him?”
By the time he left in August of this year, Mr. Moraniec had helped build a morning show that had consistently soared in the ratings, which in turn bumped up revenue for competitive commercial spots that were, according to Mr. Moraniec, sold out on a consistent basis.
Because Mr. Moraniec wasn’t planning on leaving, he hadn’t been sending out tapes. In years past, as every anchor entertains the thought of moving on to a bigger market, Mr. Moraniec turned down offers in places such as Idaho Falls, Idaho; Grand Junction, Colo.; and Omaha, Neb.
“I wasn’t looking to leave,” he said. “I’d turned down a handful of jobs over the last five years.”
After he was told his contract would not be renewed, Mr. Moraniec was told it was a business decision. But he’s the first to tell you a more sobering reason – it’s personal.
Flash back 13 years ago in fact, to 1997. The Detroit native was working in television in Peoria, Ill., when a man by the name of John Hurley, the one and the same now at KTVQ, became general manager of the same station for which Mr. Moraniec was working. Soon, Mr. Moraniec said, he was fired illegally.
“It was a long, drawn out legal battle to try to get some justice that I never got,” Mr. Moraniec recalled. “It ended up taking two years, 24 times as long as it should have to get us out of an arbitrator back then in the late ’90s because of all the legal maneuvering by him and the corporate side. I learned then that the judicial side is more about money than it is about justice. I was the little guy by myself with very little resources.”
Mr. Moraniec said he exited as gracefully as he could given the circumstances and soldiered on.
From Illinois Mr. Moraniec went to Georgia to again work in television. “I had to pick up the pieces and move on,” he said.
Following his gig in Georgia, Mr. Moraniec tried his hand at several different careers, including selling cars for a year and then dealing blackjack in his native Detroit.
Thinking once again about returning to television, Mr. Moraniec said he had to consider a smaller market, such as Billings, after what had happened in 1997 in Peoria.
“I had to come to a smaller market and start over,” he said. “It’s a very competitive industry I work in. But I was fine with that. It was a new chance and a new start and a second go at it and I embraced it. And I had a great response. I moved out here and didn’t know a person in the whole state.”
Mr. Moraniec drove cross country to Billings and to KTVQ.
“I was offered the job and took it with a leap of faith. It’s what you do in television; you go where the work is. It was a great eight years. I had a great following, great ratings and great revenue, well-liked in town.
“ I helped out in multiple charities, emceed a number of events during the year – COR Enterprises, their annual fund-raiser. I’ve done the last three, I think, and they asked me just this last week to do their benefit if I’m still here in March.”
In addition, Mr. Moraniec has participated in the HIV Pet Walk and the downtown Poverty Walk and of course the highly successful Turkey Tuesday.
“It’s endless,” he said. “All kinds of charities and events and giving my time and doing what I’m supposed to – being a community member. I have an impeccable record, so there would be no reason other than it is completely vindictive and personal.
Sheryl Shandy, executive director of Billings Food Bank, said she’ll miss seeing Marc on air every day. “I still see him around town and stuff. We’re friends. I miss him. Anything he lent his hand to, he worked on.”
Brighter days ahead
Today Marc is banking on that fan base to follow him into his next venture, that of web-based broadcasting with his On-Demand Weather on the radio.
“I’m doing a morning radio show at 105.9,” Mr. Moraniec said. “I started On-Demand weather just trying to build a product.”
The On-Demand forecast is heard on six Billings radio stations, including 106.7 The Planet, 96.3 The Zone, 94.1 KSky and two AM stations.
“You’re going to get the same information that the TV stations are giving you, but you can get it when you want it, when you get up, anytime of the day,” Mr. Moraniec said. “It’s about a minute long and it’s me without all the fancy animation you don’t need because I’m giving you the meat and potatoes. So then you can start your day with what you need and save a lot of time and not be a slave to a TV show and wait around for a weather forecast every 40 minutes.”
In addition, Mr. Moraniec is now part of a radio show alongside Willy Tyler on 105.9 from 6–10 a.m.
Mr. Moraniec said the public outpouring of support is what has kept his spirits up.
“That’s why I stayed in town,” he said. “It’s been 100 percent support of me from around town. I do have a bunch of fans and I understand that. Eight years is a long time and I wasn’t just going to throw it away because the bully came to town … again.”
The Billings Outpost invites any current or former KTVQ employee or manager to respond to this article at www.billingsnews.com.