Friday, April 19, 2013

Frank Batten: The Untold Story of the Founder of the Weather Channel

Crossposted on Yahoo!

Frank Batten Sr. (1927-2009) created the Weather Channel in 1982, despite mocking by colleagues in the media that around-the-clock weather broadcasts would be as exciting as watching paint dry. The network, and later its companion website Weather.com, became the largest private weather company in the world and an American cultural icon. Such is the story in Frank Batten: The Untold Story of the Founder of the Weather Channel, by Connie M. Sage.

Nonetheless, few have heard of Batten, a media pioneer whose Virginia newspaper was the only major daily to back school integration. At a time when American corporate greed was making headlines, Batten built a media empire centered on honesty, integrity, and ethics without fanfare and limelight. He started out in his uncle's newspaper business in Norfolk, Virginia, as a reporter and advertising salesman. Batten assumed leadership of the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star at the age of twenty-seven and grew Landmark Communications into a media powerhouse.

He championed racial equality, a position that was not popular in Virginia during the 1950s. His flagship newspaper, the Pilot, was the only daily paper in the state to back court-ordered school desegregation. He created two billion-dollar businesses and gave away more than $400 million to charity. Nearly all of the money went to education.

As chairman of the Associated Press from 1982 to 1987, he helped guide the news agency back to a sound financial footing. Batten also faced a tremendous personal challenge that would have sidelined many: he lost his vocal chords to cancer two years before starting the Weather Channel.

Donald E. Graham, Chairman, of The Washington Post Company called Batten "an extraordinary man-a business leader most beloved by those who knew him best." There are a lot of lessons in Frank Batten's life-and in the story of how the Weather Channel became a mega-success after he announced that he was going to close it.

This is the untold story of a man whose name few recognize, yet hose business acumen and estimable values helped shape a region. Batten helped change the face of the media in the twentieth century. This book is likely to be the last word on a consequential and laudable life.

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