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.”

31 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. DrewCovington

    All you Shiba Russell haters out there making comments about a women that you don’t know personally you people make me sick get a life and stop judging others what’s wrong with your life that you have to try and brake down your fellow human being!

  7. Janice Sobkowiak

    I agree with the last statement above. I think the constant is Chuck he seems to give off a rude vibe towards whoever is not Sue Simmons. Things change people retire. I think he needs to spoken too. He seems more than stiff and if he is going to stay in that position loosen up for God’s sake.

    I have watched Channel 4 for many many years ~ things need to change all the way around. I didn’t like what you all did to Ann Curry and I don’t like what you have been doing to the other females in your employ.

    I think Chuck needs to be replaced with someone a little more youthful. Don’t let him go just move him around like you have done to so many othere people.

  8. Rob Arms

    I did and still do think WNBC was nuts to get rid of Sue Simmons. It was her devil-may-care not knowing what she’d say that made the news there a step above the rest, despite Chuck and her being older. Now the station is paying for their short-sightedness with a series of co-anchors that don’t gel at all with the audience. The latest female co-anchor is a thinly veiled attempt to get Hispanic viewers to relate. Bring Sue back. Dump Dutes and Brewer. Get rid of new female co-anchor. Maybe let Shiba stay at noon and 5p. And call me to test view new candidates.

    1. Jean

      I agree – Sibila’s voice drives me crazy. She has such a phony laugh too. Find her so annoying. I think Chuck needs to go.

  9. Frank Morris

    Dear Mr Soapbox, you should fall off the box. Your reason for letting Sheba Russell go is your old and you personally feel she doesn’t belong there. That’s it? Wow that’s exactly how I feel about your uninformed and baseless comments! The reason NBC sags in ratings may be their fear of letting go it’s a trend on that station-look how long they’ve hung onto Jay Leno my fab but hey, I am not your prime marketing audience any more as a senior I can live with that. Match more closely your talent to your target and ratings will likely improve.

  10. Ric Gee

    I disagree that the problem is with Chuck, except that he should have taken her aside and showed her proper breathing techniques. When Len left I continued to watch. When Sue left I watched for about a week before Shiba’s very audible sucking in air went beyond annoying. Part of it is amateurish pausing. I was unaware someone else was brought on board and is now doing 11:00. What a breath of fresh air. Easy on the eyes (like Shiba) and easy on the ears (unlike Shiba). I wish Shiba the best with her new slots, and also wish she will learn to deliver the news with silent breathing.

  11. Leslie Baber

    The worst mistakes are moving shiba russell and hiring contessa brewer. Brewer cant get 2 sentences out without a mistake. I used to love watching 4 but thinking I might have to switch just like you do.

  12. florence

    I have watched the 11 o`clock new for many many years.
    I miss Sue Simmons very much She and Chuck had very good chemistry.I think what nbc did to Suer was totally wrong.
    When Shiba came along i believe she did a good job.

    Now there is Sibila who seems okay.
    Wish the good old days can return

  13. viewer

    shiba is sexy. sibils is sexier. next up. “good evening I’m someone on the E network” YAWN. bring back arthur chi’en. you never know what will come outta his mouth next.

  14. Jim De Rubis

    Sibila is a fresh new face and a interesting to watch and listen to. I would line to see her replace Darlene Rodriguez on the 4:30 am weekday news with Gargliulo ,Cimino and Lauren Scala..

  15. Mickey Rush

    I haven’t watched any WNBC 4 Newscast since Sue Simmons left
    Sue Simmons will show up on another NY Flagship Station

  16. Richard

    Shiba Russell has done a great job filling ms. Simmons’ shoes. However, Chuck and her are the odd couple. She needs a more relaxed and contemporary co-anchor. I no longer watch the 11 o’clock news on nbc since she was moved. I understand it takes time for people to adjust to change, but ms. Russell is positive change. The baton must be passed.

  17. 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.

    1. F Parker

      I miss Sue Simmons but Shiba Russell was tolerable. I do not like Sibila Vargas. I find her manner and voice irritating.

  18. Dave Kossmann

    Sheba, Sabilla SUE! Clearly NBC made a huge mistake. Sue gave Chuck personality and he laughed. Sue and Chuck were like husband and wife each giving the other support and recognizing the others short comings and. Jumping in to make the other look good. Who is running the news at NBC? HE needs to be replaced!

  19. Karl Knapp

    Loyal wnbc news fan. Enjoy watching Contessa Brewer. Miss Erika Tarantall. Should have kept her from going to Boston.

  20. Stanley Williams

    I love Sibila and think she will do great. I get tired of weather bunnies reporting the news too but I will make an exception for the new Sue. She has earned this as much as any can. Go Sibila.

  21. Alice Pianfetti

    I used to be a fan do the 6 O’clock News until Sibila Vargas arrived. I’m sick of watching her pose staring at the camera as though it were a mirror, and offer what I view as a completely unprofessional presence. She is clearly not a journalist, she is a model, or thinks she is. She projects no journalistic or intellectual depth and is clearly only taken with her own image which does not belong on a serious news program.

    Shiva Russell, on the other hand is both attractive and competent and clearly more interested in what she is supposed to be doing than posing for the camera.

    While the 6 O’clock News used to me a favorite, I have ceased to watch any program where Vargas appears….your competitors now suddenly seem far more professional. Bad choice on the part of NBC, and I am not alone in my opinion.

    Alice T. Pianfetti, Ph.D.

  22. William Parson

    I never watched NBC news at 5, noon or any other time unitl one day coming home early from work I caught Shiba Russell on the 5pm news. I now set my DVR for Monday – Friday NBC 5:pm. Shiba and Tom are great together. But, they are also very
    professional. They are perfect for the 5 o’clock drudge

  23. Cinda Pistey

    I am also a longtime viewer of WNBC. I watched Pat Harper, Chuck, Sue, Ralph Penza, Jack Cafferty and everyone after. The last year, I just flip through. The line-up is so blah! Why not utilize the wonderful Pat Battle or Darlene and David Ushery? I really resent the station’s current experiment with the “models” they keep pushing on us. Give us anchors who are actually journalists and know their craft. I haven’t fully given up my allegiance to WNBC, but I’m close.

  24. Marie Stachelski



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