Anchored in Gratitude: Allison Rosati


NBC 5’s Allison Rosati talks farm life, faith and fame

By Anna Hughes | Photos by Victor Hilitski

For some, 5 p.m. signals the end of the workday and the commute back to the comfort of home. For others, it’s cooking the kids’ dinner or settling down for the evening on your family room couch, flipping to channel 5 for the nightly news.

For Allison Rosati, 5 p.m. means saying hello to Chicago with the same smile she’s greeted viewers with for over three decades. Sitting next to her co-anchor, Stefan Holt, she welcomes you back to NBC for another night of the greatest and grittiest parts of the city.

On television, Rosati is the image of confidence, warmth, and poise, engaging both her coworkers on set and her audience at home. She’s a people-person by every definition. But this didn’t always come naturally to her.

“I was such a shy kid. Like painfully shy,” she admitted.

Rosati grew up on a farm in Minnesota with her parents and four siblings. With a dad in the Air Force and an animated family, Rosati had become a master listener, paying attention to all the details. But each night at dinner, her dad expected her to sit down with something to share. That’s when she learned how to tell a story.

“I do think my love for conversation and listening and being interested in politics and stuff was started there,” she recalled.

Although her broadcasts these days can reach millions of people, her main audience back in the day was much, much smaller. It was God. She spoke with Him frequently, which led to the development of a deep faith she carries with her today.

Motivated by her faith and growing interest in storytelling, she entered an essay contest through the American Legion Auxiliary during her junior year of high school. This was the beginning of a series of serendipitous events, which she calls “God moments.” The essay qualified her for ALA Girls State, a week-long program focused on citizenship, leadership, and helping current and former service members, which heightened her interest in a public career.

This state-wide recognition garnered some attention for Rosati. During her senior year of high school, she was invited to participate in the Minnesota Junior Miss pageant, and she won. The farm girl, so familiar with cattle and corn, now donned a crown. The scholarship that came with the title was life-changing.

“I ended up getting just enough money to go to college for four years. I didn’t have any money at all. That, to me, was a God moment,” Rosati said.

The money, however, wasn’t the only thing she gained from that experience. It was the first time people told her that she should be on television, calling her a natural on camera. Until then, Rosati hadn’t considered it much – or at all. She decided to pursue these talents at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

The following year, Rosati was welcomed back to help out at the America’s Junior Miss pageant in Mobile, Alabama. Unbeknownst to her, this was another God moment – one that would change the trajectory of her life. Broadcaster Diane Sawyer served as the keynote speaker of the event, and Rosati was inspired by her message.

“I was so in awe of her… her baccalaureate address was to dream big, and [she] encouraged us that we would set our own boundaries, like, you can go as far as you want to go. And I was like, that’s what I want to do,” she recalled.

Sawyer’s strong femininity in the male-dominated broadcasting industry stood out to Rosati. She returned to college, continuing her degrees in both speech and communications, determined to follow in Sawyer’s footsteps and pave a path for herself in television.

After three and a half years at Gustavus Adolphus, various newsroom internships, and an eye-opening trip to Europe, she had no more prize money but many new skills. Rosati was a girl with one reel tape (it was the mid-80s) and a dream. Her dream was to be on a morning talk show in Chicago (like the Today show), something that did not yet exist at the time.

Rosati began by driving around Minnesota and offering her tape to potential employers. Eventually, she was offered a job at KTTC-TV, a local station based in Rochester, Minnesota. From there, things moved pretty quickly. She spent two years in Rochester until moving to Buffalo, New York, where she worked for three years, reporting and anchoring at WGRZ-TV.

Then, a contact from a few years prior at NBC’s WMAQ-TV in Chicago reached out. It was a dream realized, another one of those God moments. After just five years in the business, she was offered a spot on NBC 5’s first-ever morning show, “First Thing in the Morning.” In the 33 years since, Rosati has made a name for herself as a prominent journalist in the national news landscape.

“In my mind, that is nothing short of a miracle,” Rosati said. “I was so grateful … I do think God works in mysterious ways. He really does. And what’s meant for you doesn’t pass you by.”

It’s not all fame and fortune in the news, however, even when you’re a household name in a top television market. Every day, the Emmy Award winner does her own hair and makeup. (The makeup artists were not brought back after the pandemic.) She picks out clothes (that she bought with her own money) from her closet at home.

On top of everything, she balances being a mom to her four kids and dog, Remi. She and her coworkers joke about “the glamorous life of television” as they heat up Gladware dinners between shows – happily, Rosati adds – reviewing notes for the next hour’s newscast.

Rosati doesn’t mind, though. She was never in it for the glitz and glam. She’s there to tell a story and to be a voice for communities often without one. Most importantly, she knows the weight of this role and the impact she has on Chicago and beyond. She considers it a blessing.

Some of the stories are tough to tell, and they can take a toll on any journalist. Rosati, sometimes in need of an anchor herself, finds peace and power in prayer. Each morning, she visits a favorite spot around her house to meditate and talk to God. In the summertime, it’s her backyard that reminds her of a simpler life on the farm. In the winter, it’s a sunroom with views of her beautiful Burr Ridge landscape. Taking time to stay grounded and seek guidance motivates her to continue what can often be a grueling grind.

The grind is fueled by gratitude – something Rosati incorporates into each of her morning meditations. She believes that there’s more good than bad, both in people and in life. She challenges herself to find the good in her everyday stories, in her everyday life, and in every person she meets. That’s what her digital show on NBC 5, “Happy to Report,” is all about. It’s a compilation of all the best news of the week, and she encourages viewers to tune in, especially those who are frustrated by today’s media.

“I believe that there are so many people out there trying to do the right thing every day, trying to make the world a better place,” she said.

Rosati lives by these words in her own life. She dedicates her time and talents to several local charities, including the Oak Brook Infant Welfare Society. The desire to give back, without any recognition or fanfare, is something that was instilled in her by her upbringing and faith.

“[My grandparents] worked in the iron mines of northern Minnesota, but they would be the first people to drop off food to somebody who needed it or help change a tire on the side of a road, but never asked for anything in return,” she said.

Despite all her years in the spotlight, Rosati is the same girl she’s always been. She works hard every day, gives back to the community like her grandparents taught her to, and loves her family and the life she has built for herself with deep gratitude and an appreciation for God.

Rosati’s four kids are all grown up now, with dreams and passions of their own. When everyone is together, however, they gather in the kitchen for a home-cooked meal from Mom, sweet treats from Kirsten’s Bakery, and, of course, stories to tell.

It’s the moments like these that remind Rosati of how far she’s come. They remind her of the shy little girl who, by the grace of God and with the gift of gab, paved the way for generations of future journalists and all young women with a dream.

“I’m grateful every day. Because I know how blessed and how lucky I am to do what I do,” she said. ■




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