Rare break for ABC 7 newcomer

Tanja Babich

Tanja Babich

It seems like Chicago news anchors come and go all the time — except at WLS-Channel 7.

The ABC-owned station is such a bastion of stability that it’s been seven years since anyone from outside joined the anchor team (Ravi Baichwal in 2006), and 10 years since a new anchorwoman was added to the lineup (Karen Jordan in 2003.)

And once they settle in, they tend to stay, well, anchored: Two have been at ABC 7 since Ronald Reagan’s first term (Alan Krashesky in 1982 and Linda Yu in 1984.) The last anchor to leave voluntarily was Rob Johnson, who jumped to CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 in 2006.

So it’s a pretty big deal whenever Chicago’s news leader makes a move, as it did last week with the hiring of Tanja Babich from WSYR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Syracuse, New York. The announcement by news director Jennifer Graves said Babich will start in January as a general assignment reporter and substitute anchor. But don’t let the “substitute” fool you. We should be seeing a lot more of Babich sooner rather than later.

It’s not clear whom she’ll replace, although it doesn’t take an expert to see that the station’s weekday morning ratings have never been worse. For now, John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7, appears to be keeping all his anchor options open.

“Idler knows he has to build up a bench and then let it sort itself out,” one insider said.

In moving from Syracuse, where she anchored the top-rated morning newscast, Babich, 32, makes a impressive jump from the No. 85 market to No. 3. She joined WSYR in 2007 straight out of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she earned a master’s degree. Fluent in French, Spanish and Serbian, the Toronto, Canada, native earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University.

“Thrilled to be joining the team @ABC7Chicago in 2014!” she tweeted.

Here's a look at ABC 7’s most recent anchor additions: