The first question that came to mind when Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 announced the hiring of Dawn Hasbrouck as noon news anchor was: What happens to Nancy Loo? Almost immediately, that was followed by a second question: What happens to Robin Robinson? The answers, as they like to say in television news teases, may surprise you.
Hasbrouck, a Chicago native and graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, Duke University, and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, most recently has been a weekend news anchor and reporter at CBS-owned WBZ-TV in Boston. (Here's a link to her on YouTube.) In announcing Wednesday that she'll co-anchor the noon news with Patrick Elwood, starting Feb. 15, Mike Renda, vice president and general manager of Channel 32, said:
"We're delighted to have Dawn join Fox Chicago News. Her strong journalism background, deep Chicago roots and engaging personality makes her the ideal addition to our team."
Where does that leave current noon anchor Loo? The official word is that she'll continue to report for the station, where she's worked since 2001. But considering how her role was diminished earlier by former news director Andrew Finlayson and now by news director Carol Fowler, the handwriting may be on the wall. According to insiders, Loo's contract is up in several months.
The more intriguing question surrounds Robinson, who's been a local news luminary for 27 years, and was among the original group that launched Channel 32's news operation in 1987. Her longevity as a main anchor at one station is unrivaled in the market. (During her tenure, Robinson's Fox Chicago News anchor partners included Kris Long, Walter Jacobson, Mark Suppelsa and, currently, Jeff Goldblatt.)
Speculation about Robinson's future first arose when Anna Davlantes, formerly of NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, joined Channel 32 last November as contributing anchor and reporter. Some thought it only a matter of time before Fox dropped Robinson in favor of the younger (and presumably less well-compensated) Davlantes as 9 p.m. anchor. In a city where the racial makeup of front-line anchor teams has been a volatile issue for a quarter-century, however, losing Robinson would cost the station its most prominent African American and create an all-white lineup on its marquee newscast.
Enter Hasbrouck. "Looks like Fox 32 has unveiled its defense to Jesse Jackson for when it dumps Robin Robinson in favor of Anna Davlantes," one usually connected reader wrote to this blog minutes after Fox made the announcement Wednesday. "They've hired Dawn Hasbrouck, a Chicago native and Medill grad, to be the noon anchor and to report."
While I understand the logic, I believe there's far more compelling evidence that Robinson isn't on her way out. Just last week, Channel 32 went to the trouble and expense of arranging a photo shoot for its top talent, with Robinson front and center. Insiders couldn't remember the last time the station spent a dime on that kind of promotion.
What's more, Robinson has been designated as the sole in-studio anchor for Channel 32's primary election coverage on Tuesday night. With both Goldblatt and Davlantes in the field, Robinson will be showcased more prominently than ever.
The bottom line for now is that Robinson's on-air performance is unassailable. As a capable, attractive news reader who connects with the audience, she remains at the top of her game. So unless it comes down to strictly a matter of money, I just don't see her going anywhere, any time soon.
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