Anchor Rivera leaving WHDH for New York

Longtime anchor Frances Rivera will leave WHDH next month. Longtime anchor Frances Rivera will leave WHDH next month.
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / July 14, 2011

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WHDH-TV (Channel 7) lead news anchor Frances Rivera is leaving NBC’s Boston affiliate after 10 years to take a broadcasting job in New York City, the country’s largest television market.

Rivera, who has been coanchoring the early evening and late newscasts for WHDH since 2006, will leave the station next month. WHDH officials have not announced a replacement.

“We wanted her to stay, and she wants to be closer to her mom,’’ said Chris Wayland, vice president and general manager of WHDH, adding that Rivera is departing on good terms with the station.

Rivera said yesterday that her decision to leave Boston and WHDH was bittersweet.

“For me, this isn’t a professional move. This is a personal move,’’ said Rivera.

She declined to say where she will be employed in New York.

Rivera has been a high-profile presence at WHDH since 2001, first as morning anchor and most recently as main coanchor for the highly competitive 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts.

She has also been a key element in WHDH’s marketing campaign - including a giant billboard off Interstate 93 in Dorchester - which highlights Rivera and Kim Khazei as its female anchor team.

The station paired the women up in 2009 in an effort to boost ratings after it lost its number one ratings position at 11 p.m. to WBZ-TV (Channel 4). In the May ratings sweeps, WHDH ranked third in total viewers after WBZ and WCVB (Channel 5), which is currently number one.

One media analyst predicted that WHDH will have a smooth transition from Rivera to her successor.

“WHDH has sold the concept of the female anchor team,’’ said Geoff Klapisch, a media professor at Boston University. “They weren’t selling Kim and Frances. They were selling the collective team of female anchors.’’

Klapisch said the station shouldn’t have to look too far for a replacement for Rivera. “They have a lot of strong female correspondents who they always mixed in, and they’ve substituted weekend anchors with Frances and Kim,’’ he said.

Rivera cited changes in her personal life as factors leading to her decision, mentioning the deaths of her father and father-in law. Rivera’s mother and brother live in New Jersey, and she said she wants her daughter, Tessa, born last August, to be close to her family there.

Born in the Philippines and raised in Texas, Rivera said she was particularly proud of being Boston’s only Asian-American lead news anchor, and one of the few nationwide.

“That’s a badge that I am proud to wear anywhere I go, and it makes me appreciate the opportunity that I have and the opportunity that was given to me by Channel 7,’’ she said. “It was great to be in Boston in the position I was in.’’

“We wish her well,’’ said Wayland. “She did a great job for us during the entire time she was here.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at