Why Anna Davlantes hauled anchor to Fox Chicago

November 18, 2009

Photo by Maria Ponce

Photo by Maria Ponce

One way or another, it seems, Anna Davlantes was destined to work for Carol Fowler. On Tuesday, it finally became reality when Chicago's most eligible -- and arguably most glamorous -- news anchor officially joined Fox-owned‚ WFLD-Channel 32.

"It's a great opportunity and a great challenge for me," Davlantes said in her first interview after signing the multiyear deal. "I'm real excited about it."

As first reported here, Davlantes will debut Monday as a contributing anchor and reporter on the station's 9 p.m. newscast, alongside Robin Robinson and Jeff Goldblatt. As vice president/news director of Channel 32, Fowler was instrumental in talking up Davlantes to her boss, Mike Renda, who arrived last September as vice president and general manager from Fox sister station WTXF-TV in Philadelphia.

This wasn't the first time Fowler had championed the Chicago native and pride of Lane Tech High School. It was close but no cigar early last year when Fowler was vice president/news director at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and courted Davlantes for a top anchor role. But negotiations with Joe Ahern, then-president and general manager of the station, abruptly broke off when Channel 2's budget collapsed and massive layoffs ensued.

So Davlantes hung on as weekend news anchor at WMAQ-Channel 5 before parting company with the NBC-owned station last July. (By that time, Fowler had joined Channel 32.) Once Davlantes became free to accept other offers two weeks ago, talks heated up between Renda and her agent, Steve Mandell. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

At the outset, Davlantes will assume a sub-anchor role perhaps similar to the one Mark Suppelsa once held at the station before he succeeded Walter Jacobson as principal anchor. It also may be similar to the role of Cheryl Burton on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7's 10 p.m. newscast, anchored by Ron Magers and Kathy Brock. But insiders believe it's only a matter of time before Davlantes steps up to a full-fledged anchor position on a dinner hour newscast rumored to be in the works at Channel 32.

"I think my role is going to be defined as we go, to be honest," Davlantes said. "They're really going to tap into my anchoring and reporting experience, and make me a really big part of the future and of the show. They're thrilled, they're excited, and I am too. It's a great match."

It's a return to the Fox family for Davlantes, who previously worked at the company's KRIV-TV in Houston before joining Channel 5 here in 2000.

A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Davlantes has had her share of scoops over the years. Among the most memorable was the home video she unearthed showing a violent hazing incident among girls at Glenbrook North High School in 2003. It became a worldwide cause celebre and landed Davlantes on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

At Channel 32, she hopes to show off her reporting chops, too. "They will use my skills as someone who has ties to the community, who is an investigative reporter, and who has strong reporting skills as well as strong anchoring skills.For me, that's the exciting part. It all plays to my core strengths."

Whether she can help lift Channel 32 from the bottom of the ratings is anybody's guess. But there's no doubt Davlantes will bring a heavy dose of star power and attention to the station.‚ "I hope people give Fox another look," she said. "They have a great team over there already, and I think there are good things to come. I know I'm going to love working there."

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