Debra Juarez, who guided the expansion and resurgence of WMAQ-Channel 5 during five years as news director, is leaving the NBC-owned station here to head digital operations for two of the parent company’s stations in Miami.
Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, told staffers Wednesday that Juarez has been promoted to vice president, digital for NBC/Universal’s South Florida duopoly stations, WTVJ and Telemundo WSCV.
Calling Juarez “the perfect choice” for the new position, Whittaker cited her prior experience in Miami and extensive newsroom management in Chicago and Boston. He credited Juarez as an integral part of NBC 5’s leadership team “[whose] steady hand has guided our daily news operations. . . . On a personal level, I will miss her the most. She’s been my right hand for the past five years, helping me run the newsroom and keeping me out of trouble.”
A search will begin soon for a replacement as news director, Whittaker said. Juarez, who’ll remain on the job here through the November rating sweep, officially starts in Miami on January 3.
“This is an exciting time in my career,” Juarez said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to join the NBC 6 and Telemundo 51 news teams to further boost their digital operations and help each station deliver the news, information and content their viewers are clamoring for and across all platforms.”
Juarez has left her mark on two Chicago newsrooms. From 1993 to 2005 she served as vice president of news at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. She returned to become news director of NBC 5 in 2011. Between those jobs, she served as news director of New England Cable News, a 24-hour news channel in Boston, and president of Deca Productions, a firm she founded in west suburban Oak Park.
A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Juarez previously worked as an executive producer at the Telemundo network and WSVN in Miami.
“Debra is no stranger to our market or the Telemundo family, and I’m thrilled that she is joining our duopoly operation,” Jorge Carballo, president and general manager of WSCV, said in a statement. “Viewers in our market are savvy digital users and by adding Debra to our teams, she will help our stations deliver the information that our viewers want and how they want it.”
During Juarez’s tenure, NBC 5 expanded news on weekdays and weekends, and solidified its late-news ratings lead among viewers between 25 and 54. Earlier this year, the station was honored with a George Foster Peabody Award for investigative reporting on the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer.
Here is the text of Whittaker’s note to NBC 5 staff:
Today our sister stations WTVJ (NBC) and WSCV (Telemundo) in Miami are announcing the hiring of Debra Juarez as Vice President, Digital for the Miami duopoly.
This is a very exciting promotion for Deb. It’s the first time the digital operations of NBC and Telemundo stations will come under the leadership of one person. Deb is the perfect choice. She’s run newsrooms in Chicago and Boston, and has worked in several other markets including Miami. Her extensive involvement with our digital team will be a great asset in her new role in Miami.
We, of course, will miss her. She’s been an integral part of our leadership team. Her steady hand has guided our daily news operations. Under her direction, our investigative team has thrived, including winning a national Peabody award this year. During her time here, we have also grown our ratings (most recently our winning streak in demos at 10p), expanded our news hours, and improved the quality of our newscasts. Deb deserves much of the credit. On a personal level, I will miss her the most. She’s been my right hand for the past five years, helping me run the newsroom and keeping me out of trouble.
Deb isn’t leaving just yet. She’ll stay here through the November rating book, and will begin transitioning to her new job after December 2. She’ll officially start in Miami on January 3. That will give us plenty of time to toast her for this big promotion in our company.
We’ll be posting for Deb’s replacement soon. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Deb on her promotion!
Station Manager & Vice President of News
NBC 5 Chicago