When Bob Sirott walked away from WMAQ-Channel 5 in June 2009, he never doubted that he’d work in local television again. Though high-paying anchor jobs were scarce and cutbacks were rampant, he knew his decision to quit the NBC-owned station (rather than accept less than he’d bargained for) would all work out in the end.
On Tuesday, Sirott’s gamble paid off. The veteran Chicago broadcaster signed a multiyear deal to return to Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, where he’d hosted the morning show from 1994 to 2000 (and where he met and married his co-anchor, Marianne Murciano). Only this time, he’ll step in as the station’s top news anchor — and play a key behind-scenes role in revamping the content and production of its hourlong 9 p.m. newscast.
Sirott, 60, will start July 19, working alongside news anchors Robin Robinson and Anna Davlantes. The move confirms a May 7 report here that Fox Chicago officials denied to staffers at the time.‚ “As a native Chicagoan, I’m thrilled to continue covering news in the city I have called home my entire life,” Sirott said in a statement released by the station.
The challenge he faces won’t be easy. Channel 32 remains a distant also-ran among Chicago’s news stations, delivering a meager 2.6 Nielsen rating for its Monday-through-Friday late newscast in June. (Its morning show is in even worse shape.) The station is also coming off a wave of personnel cutbacks, including the loss of some two dozen technical positions and the release of anchors Jeff Goldblatt, Nancy Loo and Byron Harlan, and reporters Jack Conaty, Lilia Chacon and Lauren Cohn, among others.
That’s a major reason Channel 32 is looking to overhaul the format of its newscast into one emphasizing fewer stories from the field and more in-studio interviews with newsmakers and pundits. It’s one that would allow Sirott to draw on his experience with “Chicago Tonight,” the nightly newsmagazine he hosted on public television WTTW-Channel 11 from 2002 to 2005.
A lifelong Chicagoan who graduated from Roosevelt High School and Columbia College, and worked as an NBC page at the Merchandise Mart, Sirott began his career as a disc jockey in the 1970s. He segued to television in 1980, when he joined CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 as its first entertainment and lifestyle reporter.
After a network stint as a correspondent for the CBS News magazine “West 57th,” he returned to local television in 1989 as a news anchor at Channel 5, where he launched “First Thing in the Morning” with co-anchor Allison Rosati. He moved to Channel 32 in December 1993 and four months later and transformed its morning show into “Fox Thing in the Morning” with Murciano as his co-anchor.
In the year since he stepped away from Channel 5, Sirott has maintained an association with Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720), where he frequently fills in for morning host Greg Jarrett and where he and Murciano host a Sunday night talk show.