A few months ago, WFAA/Channel 8 anchor Cynthia Izaguirre did a Facebook Live announcing that she would be taking some time off. She and her husband, whom she calls Captain Awesome, were getting ready to adopt a child, and WFAA gives employees who adopt a two-month-leave to give them some time to bond with the child.
It turned out that Izaguirre was gone longer than two months. She said in the Facebook Live that she would be gone starting Sept. 10 (her last day on-air was Sept. 7) and returning Oct. 29. She was supposed to be back for November sweeps, work through November, and then take December off.
But things happened, and Izaguirre has been out of the anchor chair and mostly off the air since September — and she’ll finally return on Jan. 2, coincidentally, her 11th anniversary with the station.
“I was off for a week to bond with the child we’re adopting, and it turns out I’ve got to have a surgery,” Izaguirre says during a phone interview. “I thought it was a simple surgery at the beginning, to remove cysts from my ovaries, and it turned into a full-blown hysterectomy.”
Suddenly, adoption leave turned into medical leave. And then after her medical leave, she took her adoption leave. She declines to say much about the adoption — even the gender of the child — because the adoption was through Child Protective Services, and she is not legally able to give out any details about the child.
“The child is from foster care,” is about as far as she can go. “We adopted a child from foster care from Child Protective Services.” (Izaguirre and her husband also have two other children — boy-girl twins.)
Since 2011, Izaguirre has produced and anchored “Wednesday’s Child” segments, which according to her WFAA bio, help find homes for abused and neglected children. She is also on the board of directors for Tex Protects: The Texas Association for the Protection of Children. “It has become Cynthia’s mission to fight for the most vulnerable children in our communities.”
“Children know where they belong,” Izaguirre says. “And this child belongs with us.”
When local-TV anchors and high-profile reporters are off the air for a while, viewers tend to react in a couple of ways. Some notice quickly, and, TV and media being what they are, wonder if the personality has left or been dropped by the station. Other viewers, who might be more occasional newscast watchers, take a while to notice.
Izaguirre not only did the Facebook Live, she announced on the air that she’d be going on leave. In early October, she put a pinned tweet at the top of her Twitter feed (it is no longer there), explaining what happened, because her bosses told her that people were still asking where she was. But even though the word was pretty well out there, people still wondered what happened to her.
The station even did a report on her in November, with anchor-reporter Marie Saavedra — who has been filling in for Izaguirre — doing a “Catching up with Izzy” segment updating viewers on the adoption and the surgery.
Izaguirre hasn’t been totally absent from WFAA, though. In October, the station aired a feature she did on the story behind Pearl Jam’s 1992 hit “Jeremy” — which was inspired by the 1991 suicide of Jeremy Delle, a 15-year-old who took his life in a classroom at Richardson High School, an event depicted in the song’s video.
Izaguirre’s feature was the first time that Jeremy’s mother, Wanda, spoke publicly about her son. The report was produced before she went on leave.
Izaguirre has also remained active on social media, especially on Twitter, where she has interacted with viewers and retweeted her WFAA colleagues. She also praises WFAA for the way the station handled her leave.
“During a time in my life where I needed love and support — WFAA led the way,” she says in a post-interview email. “Their support over the last several months has been immeasurable and I’m profoundly grateful. My station truly puts Family First.’” (WFAA has a content-sharing agreement with the Star-Telegram.)
Now that she’s coming back, Izaguirre does say that she’s a little nervous about it.
“I have already had two nightmares that I forgot how to read a teleprompter,” she says with a laugh. “I woke up in a panic, and it’s happened twice. I can’t believe I’m having these dreams, but obviously I’m nervous.”
In the dream, she’s doing her first broadcast back and the prompter goes on — but things quickly go awry. “You really have to understand how to read a prompter sometimes, because words will start on one line and end on a second, so you really have to pay attention to what you’re saying to make sure that the words come out correctly,” she says. “In this dream, all the words don’t make sense to me. And I’m looking at it, and I cannot speak. And the producer’s in my ear, saying, ‘You’re on live! Read!’ “ After the producer issues the order again, Izaguirre wakes up.
Not long after she gets back, Izaguirre will face another transition: John McCaa, with whom she’s been anchoring since Gloria Campos retired in 2014, is also retiring, at the beginning of March. Izaguirre will work with McCaa a couple of months and then be teamed with Chris Lawrence, who officially joins the station in January and is scheduled to begin co-anchoring in March.
“I welcome the changes, because that’s how we grow,” Izaguirre says. “At the same time, that’s going to be an adjustment, because 35 years of incredible experience is walking out the door. And a friend. And it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be good because John needs to rest.”
But Izaguirre has already met Lawrence, whom she describes as “very smart, very educated and very cool.”
“I had an opportunity to meet him and his wife and spent some time with them a couple of weeks ago,” says Izaguirre, who lives in Grapevine. “He was in town looking for a home. So Captain Awesome and I decided to have lunch with them in Grapevine and take them around the Grapevine-Southlake-Colleyville area to give them the feel of the Mid-Cities. We had a really nice time with him and his wife ... and I think the viewers are going to be very impressed.”
Izaguirre, who started at Channel 8 as a morning anchor before moving to evenings/nights, gives a lot of credit to “Captain Awesome” for being a supportive husband and father.
“He is our stay-home dad, and he now will stay home with three children, and therein lies the blessing,” she says. “We have an anchor at the house. I leave and go to work in peace knowing that Captain Awesome is taking care of the family and the house. There will be no changes, except that he will not have my help anymore.
“Mommy’s gotta work,” she adds. “Like I tell the kids, ‘No work, no food. Yes work, yes food.’”