Another loss for NBC 5: Zoraida zooms to CNN

Chicago television is about to lose one of its loveliest morning stars: Zoraida Sambolin is leaving WMAQ-Channel 5 to join CNN in New York.

A nine-year veteran of the NBC-owned station, Sambolin has been anchoring NBC 5 News Today since 2007. She’s expected to work here though mid-November.

“We all know how passionate Zoraida is about the stories we cover and the communities we serve,” Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, told staffers in a memo Thursday. “We will miss that passion and her dynamic personality.”

Whittaker said a search for Sambolin’s successor will begin immediately. She currently anchors alongside Rob Elgas from 4:30 to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday.

A Chicago native and mother of two, Sambolin has come a long way since she joined NBC 5 with virtually no news experience as a free-lance weekend news anchor in 2002. She previously had been host and executive producer of the weekly Small Talk for Parents for the City Colleges of Chicago’s WYCC-Channel 20, and host of Nuestros Ninos on Telemundo Spanish-language WSNS-Channel 44.

When her on-air work won her a few local awards, Sambolin told Oprah Radio’s Jean Chatzky, she contacted an agent to seek more opportunities in television. “I walked in … and she looked at my tape and said, ‘I have just the person I want to show this to,’ ” Sambolin recalled. “And she went and showed it to the general manager [Larry Wert] … and he hired me on the spot basically.”

Working on the weekend morning anchor desk became her crash course on television news reporting. “It was a lot to learn — It was a very complex environment to work in because I had not had that training that happens in smaller markets,” she told Chatzky. “If you have the desire to do something — If you have a passion for something — you are going to do it, you are going to do it to the best of your ability, and I think more often than not you are going to succeed.”

Soon after she started, Sambolin added anchoring and reporting for Telemundo, becoming the first Chicago broadcaster to work on the air at both English and Spanish stations simultaneously.

She’s the second high-profile personality in recent weeks to leave NBC 5 for a network gig in New York. Ginger Zee, who just signed off as weekend meteorologist, is expected to join ABC’s Good Morning America Weekend November 7.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)