Zoraida Sambolin rejoins NBC 5 as morning anchor

Zoraida Sambolin

Zoraida Sambolin

Zoraida Sambolin, who left her job as CNN morning news anchor last December to move back home to Chicago, is rejoining NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.

Starting May 22, Sambolin will co-anchor “NBC 5 News Today” with Stefan Holt from 4:30 to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. She will replace Daniella Guzman, who is moving to KNBC-TV, the NBC-owned station in Los Angeles, as anchor of a revamped “Today in L.A.” 

Before she joined CNN in New York at the end of 2011, Sambolin co-anchored “NBC 5 News Today” with Rob Elgas.

“We are delighted that Zoraida will be returning to our newsroom,” Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, said in a statement Wednesday. “She’s a native Chicagoan and knows our city well. I know our viewers will welcome her back.”

Sambolin, 48, 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. (She’d previously hosted such public-affairs shows as “Small Talk for Parents” and “Nuestros Ninos” for noncommercial and Spanish-language stations.) By 2007, she moved up to weekday morning news anchor. CNN came calling four years later. “I have to say leaving NBC was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made,” she told me at the time. “My team is my second family.”

Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin

Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin

She initially joined CNN to host “Early Start,” a two-hour weekday morning news show with Ashleigh Banfield. But Banfield proved a poor fit for mornings and was moved to middays after six months. John Berman, a former ABC News correspondent, replaced her as Sambolin’s morning partner.

Sambolin’s life and career changed dramatically last May when she disclosed that she had breast cancer and would undergo a double mastectomy. When she returned to “Early Start” in August, she said it was with a new perspective. “I have come to realize that in order for me to be happy, my family has to be my first priority,” she wrote on Facebook in announcing her decision to leave CNN in December. A mother of two, she is engaged to Kenny Williams, executive vice president of the White Sox.

“I love my job and the gifted and committed people I’ve had an opportunity to work with but life is beckoning me back to Chicago. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I entered a dark place . . . not once did I think about not achieving career or material success. Rather, I thought about all the missed moments in life and how I was not ready to sacrifice missing any more. I wanted to live to see my kids grow up. I wanted more soccer games, basketball games, proms, weddings, grandchildren. . . . I am healthy, cancer free and strong but I know a long life is not promised.

“So, I am moving back to Chicago and I will be on the sidelines cheering on my kids. I will not become a slacker; work is in my future, but so is a great deal of perspective. I will also continue to raise awareness about breast cancer and help raise funds to find a cure. It’s an interesting relationship I’ve had with cancer. I appreciate how it’s made me think and grow but it’s evil, arbitrary hand has taken too many lives. For as long as I have a voice, I am committed to early detection and finding a cure.”

Stefan Holt and Daniella Guzman

Stefan Holt and Daniella Guzman

On Tuesday, Sambolin wrote on Facebook: “It’s been wayyyy too long since I checked in . . . kids are great . . . I’m healthy . . . making new friends.”

Guzman joined NBC 5 in March 2012 from KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Houston, where she was a weekend news anchor and general assignment reporter. Her hiring closely followed the promotion of Holt, son of NBC News anchor Lester Holt, from weekend morning news anchor to weekdays. Elgas shifted to co-anchoring NBC 5’s 4:30 p.m. weekday newscast with Marion Brooks.

Calling Guzman “a key part of our morning news growth,” David Doebler, president and general manager of NBC 5, said in a statement: “While we hate to see her go, we are happy that she can take advantage of this promotion within our company.”

Update: Read Zoraida on her comeback: ‘It all feels right.’