Sibila Vargas In; Is Shiba Russell On the Way Out at WNBC?

siblia-vargasWith the announcement that Sibila Vargas (left) is coming on board at WNBC in October, we’re left to speculate how the anchor changes will impact the station, and most notably, Shiba Russell.

Since she walked in the door at 30 Rock in 2011, Russell was tapped as the next Sue Simmons. But if the media helped create that idea, station management was on the same path. Seemingly from day one, she was “the” Simmons back-up. Of course, by last June she was understudy no more, when Simmons left WNBC. Russell joined another market legend Chuck Scarborough at 11. However, since Simmons returned from back surgery, she was no longer on the 6 p.m., leaving Scarborough to fend for himself.

Now with New York native Vargas installed as the 6 p.m. anchor with Scarborough, there could be a case of turf wars among the ladies. Vargas becomes the first evening female anchor to land at WNBC since Russell’s rapid ascension.

“I grew up watching WNBC. The news was always first-rate,” Vargas tells Tuned In. ”Now I’m going to be part of the team. I am beyond thrilled! It is an honor.”

Is there more to this move?

Well WNBC has been in an uncharacteristic fight for last place, and that’s not all Russell’s fault. As much as loyal viewers lit up the blogosphere saying they’d stop watching the station without Sue. They wouldn’t, and didn’t. The bigger problem, as one insider tells Tuned In, quality has been sorely lacking.

“So far the talent they’ve hired for the station is amateurish,” the insider says. “Hopefully with these two new anchor hires they’ll get it right.”

In July, WNBC brought in another KCAL/KCBS anchor, Rob Schmitt, who will work with Vargas on the noon newscasts.

ShibaRussell_WNBCThe Scarborough/Russell (right) partnership never clicked. Granted, part of that problem is Scarborough, who has clearly started to show signs of wear and tear.

Ironically, the Russell/Tom Llamas team is more youthful, but the ratings are actually much worse in the crowded 5 p.m. slot.

But make no mistake, a weekday noon anchor position is in the second tier of newscasts. Even with Vargas locked into a main early evening broadcast, if she performs well with Scarborough, expect bigger changes.

“The station needs some kind of a boost,” the insider contends. “There will be anchor changes.”

7 thoughts on “Sibila Vargas In; Is Shiba Russell On the Way Out at WNBC?

  1. Michael E

    Well, I guess I’m not the only one who hasn’t watched WNBC at 5 PM in a while. Perhaps there’s some hope for that to change.

    Also, just maybe I won’t have to talk back to my TV every weekday evening when Chuck says “Shiba and I will see you at 11″, because they won’t, and even though I’m the only one to hear my “No, you won’t”, I feel compelled to say it anyway.

    Yes, to be sure I still miss Sue, but WNBC has had many anchor changes over the years (I’ve been watching at least some of the WNBC evening newscasts since the 1970′s [I'm old, so shoot me]), and I’ve always accepted and embraced the changes once the “new” folks have settled in. Can’t and won’t do it with Shiba there, though I’ve tried.

    Lest anyone think otherwise, I don’t have ANY personal vendetta against Shiba, nor do I have any relationship with WNBC other than as a viewer. Just my (not so) humble opinion she doesn’t belong there.

    So, if WNBC is reading, I realize I’m only one person, but I may not be the ONLY person who feels this way.

    ::trips and falls off soapbox::

  2. manhattan resident

    I agree with Michael. She really is not ready for prime time, or bush league, if you will.
    Her editorializing is annoying. There’s no need for her to add her opinion to a story. Viewers can make up their own minds. And she does come across as being brittle and cold. Chuck Scarborough is much better with Contessa Brewer or Erika Tarantal. If there are to be switches made, maybe WNBC should check previous broadcasts.

  3. Victoria

    I switched to WNBC when Shiba came on board as anchor. She’s funny and whitty, not stale and frumpy. The problem is that WABC 5pm news is fantastic but I needed a break from the “personalities.” Shiba deliveres the news in a no nonesense manner but can add a side commentary that makes it entertaining.

    Hey Sue Simmons is one classy lady but I think Shiba is filling her shoes very well. Vargas is ok- a little too cheerleader for my taste. Shiba is much more polished and “new york” than Vargas.

  4. Barbara Winard

    First WNBC canned Sue Simmons. Then they hired Contessa Brewer. THEN they foisted Sibila Vargas on us. Irritating voice, smiles, makeup, hand-motions, senseless drama, grating voice. For god’s sake, just find someone intelligent to read the news in a less frenetic way.

  5. Theuresa Maven

    I am a Sue (and Ann) fan who absolutely refuses to watch anything on NBC that has anything to do with the news. Frankly, when Sue wasn’t on I turned to CBS news to watch all of the former NBC news reporters, who I trust more because I grew up watching many of them. The one thing that I have not seen is any of the posters saying that most of this problem is Chuck’s fault. The man is a stiff, and the only one who could help him was Sue. There have been at least six women anchors, not including Sue, with Chuck at the 6:00 and all of them have failed. The constant here is Chuck, so why doesn’t anyone blame him? It doesn’t really matter to me since I will not be watching. I will, however, be willing to pay good money to see Sue and Jack Cafferty reunited for an hour — perhaps on that almost defunct station CNNHN.

  6. Conrad C. pfeifer

    I miss Shiba as do many of my neighbors. Vargas is no Shiba. Ratings will drop more with Vargas. Will go back to Eye Witness news if this continues. real shame.


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