NBC Chicago announces anchor changes — and could be sending some clues about the future

WMAQ, the NBC owned station in Chicago, has announced it’s making some big changes to its anchor lineup that could be read as a sign of the station’s future direction.

The shuffles are being triggered by former NBC 5 anchor Stefan Holt returning to the station from New York in early October 2020, the station revealed Aug. 19, 2020.

Holt will anchor the 10 p.m. newscast with Allison Rosati and the 4 p.m. with Marion Brooks.

This means Holt will replace current primary co-anchor Rob Stafford at 10 p.m.

Stafford will continue to anchor at 5 and 6 p.m. and “devote more time to the station’s nationally recognized and award-winning NBC 5 Investigates team,” according to the station.

Both Rosati and Brooks are currently assigned to the shows they will co-anchor with Holt.

Meanwhile, Holt is also displacing 4 p.m. co-anchor Patrick Fazio, who will move to the 11 a.m. newscast as well as report for the 4, 5 and 10 p.m.

Looking at the moves on a broader scale could be a sign that Stafford, who is 61, is inching toward an exit or retirement, though NBC 5 did not indicate that in its announcement.

However, it’s notable that Stafford is moving off the late news, which is typically considered a station’s signature newscast, and reducing his on air time by about 35 minutes a day, while Rosati, 57, will continue to appear on all of her current newscasts.

It’s also possible that WMAQ is prepping Holt to become the station’s primary evening anchor when Stafford exits, something that was also not mentioned or confirmed in the announcement.

Over at rival and market leader WLS, Cheryl Burton was assigned as a third co-anchor on the 10 p.m. newscast before eventually taking over the seat alongside Alan Krashesky following the retirement of Kathy Brock. Brock’s departure was part of a string of high profile retirements by ABC 7 Chicago talent including Linda Yu and Jerry Taft.

The announcement notably included biographies of Stafford and Holt, with an emphasis on Stafford’s transition to more investigative reporting, but did not include extended information about the other affected anchors.

In many ways, including Stafford’s bio in the announcement could be read as the station trying hard to spin moving Stafford off the anchor desk for its signature show as a transition to reporting, though WMAQ did not comment on this angle.

Holt, who is the son of “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, was born in Chicago and worked at NBC 5 from 2011 to 2016, spending most of that time as the station’s morning co-anchor.

He left Chicago in 2011 for WNBC in New York, where he was co-anchor of the station’s 4 p.m. and, later, 11 p.m. newscasts. He took over 11 p.m. anchor duties from longtime anchor Chuck Scarborough.

During his time in New York, Stefan would often appear on screen along Lester, when the elder Holt appeared on WNBC to offer a preview of “Nightly.”

WNBC has not announced how Stefan Holt’s departure could affect its other newscasts.

Stafford has suffered health problems after he was allegedly exposed to toxins from a sterilization company near his home.

He took a leave of absence from the station in 2017 for a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy for the rare blood disorder allegedly connected to the toxins.

Stafford sued the company allegedly responsible for the release of toxins and NBC 5 took steps to ensure he would not report or anchor any stories related to the company or case.