CNN-bound Zoraida: ‘Chicago will always be home’
Like Jane Pauley in the ’70s, Deborah Norville in the ’80s and Robin Meade a decade ago, another anchorwoman from WMAQ-Channel 5 is leaving Chicago and headed for network renown. But Zoraida Sambolin insists she won’t be cutting ties to the city she loves.
On Thursday CNN finally announced what readers of this blog have known for two weeks: After nine years at the NBC-owned station, Sambolin will be joining CNN in New York to launch a new morning newscast early next year. In place of American Morning, she and Ashleigh Banfield, formerly of MSNBC and ABC, will co-anchor from 5 to 7am weekdays. They’ll be followed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, who’ll anchor from 7 to 9am.
“I have to say leaving NBC was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. My team is my second family,” Sambolin told me. “I’ve had the privilege to work with a group of talented, dedicated and funny people that make going to work a joy. I will miss them and our loyal viewers who through the years have supported me and held me accountable.”
Although her last day here will be November 11, Sambolin promises she won’t disappear after parting company with NBC 5 News Today co-anchor Rob Elgas, meteorologist Andy Avalos, traffic reporter Matt Rodewald and reporter Lauren Jiggetts. “My hope is to continue the dialogue I enjoy on a daily basis with our viewers through Facebook, Twitter, email and the occasional phone call,” she said. “I am not cutting ties. There are many organizations I love and support that will continue to own me. Chicago will always be home.”
Teaming Sambolin and Banfield is a key element in CNN’s plan to boost ratings with what the network described as “a new program covering a broad spectrum of the day’s news from two highly personable and passionate journalists.” No date was announced for the debut.
“I am thrilled to be joining CNN and look forward to working with an incredible team of accomplished journalists,” Sambolin said. “Having access to the worldwide platforms of CNN and sharing them with our viewers is very exciting.”
Sambolin’s rise in television news has been meteoric. The Chicago native and mother of two had virtually no news experience when she talked her way into a job as a free-lance weekend news anchor at NBC 5 in 2002. Within months she was doing double duty as an anchor and reporter for Telemundo Spanish-language WSNS-Channel 44, making her the first Chicago broadcaster to work on the air at English and Spanish stations simultaneously. She was promoted to weekday anchor of NBC 5 News Today in 2007.
Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, said a search is underway for Sambolin’s replacement. Until one is named, reporter Kim Vatis will co-anchor alongside Elgas on the Monday-through-Friday newscast.