Nancy Shulins, Journal News, Nyack, NY
Bob Harris, weatherman for NY TV station WPIX-TV and the nationally syndicated independent Network news, had to weather a public storm of his own making in 1979. Though he had studied math, physics and geology at three colleges, he left school without a degree but with a strong desire to be a media weatherman. He phoned WCBS-TV, introducing himself as a Ph.D. in geophysics from Columbia U. The phony degree got him in the door.
After a two-month tryout, he was hired as an off-camera forecaster for WCBS. For the next decade his career flourished. He became widely known as "Dr. Bob." He was also hired by the New York Times as a consulting meteorologist.
The same year both the Long Island Railroad and then Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn hired him. Forty years of age and living his childhood dream, he found himself in public disgrace and national humiliation when an anonymous letter prompted WCBS management to investigate his academic credentials. Both the station and the New York Times fired him.
His story got attention across the land. He was on the Today Show, the Tomorrow Show, and in People Weekly, among others. He thought he'd lose his home and never work in the media again. Several days later the Long Island Railroad and Bowie Kuhn announced they would not fire him. Then WNEW-TV gave him a job. He admits it was a dreadful mistake on his part and doubtless played a role in his divorce.
"I took a shortcut that turned out to be the long way around, and one day the bill came due. I will be sorry as long as I am alive."