WCCB news director Ken White told me that, "He's (Mathis) off for 30 days. It was time off, vacation planned before the book."
This explanation frankly makes more sense than Mathis' alleged suspension over the ill-advised "Fox News Edge" piece that mocked the linguistic quirks of our Gaston County neighbors.
The supposed suspension had made no sense to me, because the "Gastonese" story was promoted in advance, meaning it went through the normal newsroom checks and balances, i.e., editors and producers approving the scripts, etc. White says that he did not see the promo in advance, however.
Rumors are still floating that Mathis' absence is everything from a stint in rehab, since he has acknowledged past alcohol problems, to a long vacation cruise. Something still isn't kosher, though, since WCCB management admits that they don't always have a leash on his weather clown antics, and how many people do you know who get 30 days vacation in one clump?
Bottom line, dear readers? Make no mistake: Fox18 is loving this attention, except for some news staffers who tell me they're embarrassed to be identified as the station with the loose-cannon weatherman. To add to the credibility gap, they've even had WSOC-FM morning guy Jeff Roper filling in. Helped by big Fox lead-ins like 24, Joe Millionaire, and American Idol, Fox18 won the 10pm news race by a nice margin over WAXN's program. Their promos really cut through the clutter, too, due to staffers like Jonathan Case and Chris Ayres. And young viewers, those non-traditional news viewers, are actually watching their newscasts. Maybe Mathis is on a cruise.