When news broke last month that Zoraida Sambolin was returning to WMAQ-Channel 5 as morning news anchor, longtime viewers of “NBC 5 News Today” were overjoyed. “Too good to be true!” wrote one on this site. “Welcome back, Zoraida. You’ve been dearly missed,” wrote another. Many more agreed.
But perhaps no one was happier than Sambolin herself. After two years at CNN in New York (interrupted by a battle with breast cancer), the Chicago native was thrilled to be back home with family and reclaiming her old job at the station where she’d spent a decade.
The anchor who’d replaced her, Daniella Guzman, is headed to NBC-owned KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, so Sambolin is able to pick up right where she left off. The only difference is that her co-anchor this time will be Stefan Holt, who succeeded Rob Elgas in early 2012.
As Sambolin prepares for her return to the show this Thursday (May 22), I asked about the reaction to her comeback, her feelings about her new morning partner and her old job, and her impending nuptials to White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams:
Q. What’s been the response to your return to NBC 5?
A. The response has been humbling. Many of our loyal viewers followed my career at CNN, prayed for me during my health crisis and are now embracing my return to their morning routine. I feel incredibly fortunate. The team I left has changed a bit, but they’ve all been very welcoming, and the staff and crew have always been like family. It all feels right and Daniella is excited about her new opportunities in L.A.
Q. Does the place seem any different since you left?
A. Funny you should ask. I have been trying to figure out for the past week why I feel a little disconnected . . . it’s because there is no street side studio! That is the biggest change for me. I really enjoyed meeting our viewers on the plaza and connecting with people who were passing by. I have to step up my communication on Twitter and Facebook to maintain that attachment. Also our new owner Comcast has poured vast resources into news, so our staff is bigger and our coverage greater. There’s great momentum, we’ve had a banner year, and I’m looking forward to joining a winning team.
Q. What are your impressions of Stefan Holt?
A. My first impression happened several years ago. I worked with Stefan before I left for CNN. He filled in for Rob Elgas and did a great job. I have been fortunate to sit alongside some pretty remarkable talent, and he will be no different. He is a great conversationalist, a great journalist and he likes to laugh. He’s confident, poised and a committed family man. What is there not to love?
Q. Are you really sure you still want to get up at 3 in the morning?
A. 3 a.m.?? I get up at 2! It’s never easy getting up at that hour, but I will say I love morning television. I love the pace, the feel, the viewers and that we have 2½ hours to help inform you and get your day started right. It’s an awesome responsibility, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Q. Any regrets about taking the CNN job?
A. Going to CNN was one of the smartest moves I’ve made for my career. I learned a lot and had an opportunity to be a part of a 24-hour global news team and cover some incredible stories. I’ve made some lasting friendships and take with me a great deal of knowledge and experience that I can use here.
Q. Have you and Kenny set a date?
A. Now that we’re living in the same city, we have set a date. We will be married July 3rd here in Chicago. Wanna come?