A look back at ABC7 anchor Linda Yu's career as retirement nears

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7 will say goodbye this week to our friend and colleague Linda Yu, who has established herself as a legend in broadcast journalism -- not just in Chicago but across the country.

After 33 years at ABC7, Yu will anchor her last show on Wednesday.

Yu is whip smart, driven and unflappable, which is evident to viewers who've allowed her into their homes over the years.

But we'd like to reveal some things that viewers may not know about Yu.

First, she never really fancied a career in TV news, but some time ago, friends said, "Give it a try. You could be good."

In her first audition video, 46 years ago, the test script included tough lines without a prompter and phrases such as "to all tyrants, autocrats and oppressors. That is every American male."

She delivered it flawlessly in her own shy way.

"People don't believe it but I was painfully shy. I barely spoke above a whisper. I'm still shy. Honest," Yu said with a laugh.

Shyness did not stand in the way of job offers. In Portland, Yu's bosses tap her for a segment called "You and Your Money." Soon, she jumped to San Francisco.

"She had a lot going for her other than her looks. This is a smart woman and I didn't know until I hired her how much of a hard worker she was," said Peter Jacobus, the former news director at KGO-TV San Francisco.

After Chinese gang violence stunned San Francisco, Yu was sent to Hong Kong to dig into the story. The ABC bureau chief called Yu's boss and asked, "Does this woman ever sleep?"

She quickly showed she could cover anything - and do everything well, from hard news to a story about the world's longest hot dog.


Yu was born in China, in a little house with a dirt floor. She visited that home when she returned to her homeland many years later. Many probably don't know that she has royal blood -- her grandmother was in line for succession in China's ruling family.

"If Mao hadn't come along. At least I could have been a princess?" Yu said.

But the coming of Mao was reality and with Yu's father a Protestant minister, the family had to flee, and began a long, complicated, but successful quest to come to the United States.
On her second day in the U.S., Yu - not yet 5 years old - went to public school. She knew three words of English

"The teacher introduced me and I whispered my first word of English, I said 'hello.' And unluckily for me, there was a bully in the class. He walked up really close, stared at me, and poked me in the eye. And I whispered the other two words of English my mother taught me, and I said 'thank you,'" she said.

The little immigrant girl may have been shy, but she grew up fearless and driven. She learned English from TV, and learned it so fast, she skipped first grade.


In her career, Yu has jumped out of airplanes, and reported from the Great Wall and beyond. Nine years after that first audition, she became Chicago's first Asian American anchor -- a distinction for Yu that transcends the news business.

"She is one of the most considerate, thoughtful, nurturing people I have ever met in my whole life," said Sylvia Perez, a former co-anchor.

"She understands the community. She has an empathy with it and concern about it which obviously showed in her professionalism on the air," said Joel Daly, a former co-anchor

Yu has devoted countless hours to advancing the Juvenile Protective Association, the March of Dimes and the Chinese American Service League, which has grown dramatically over the years. Her work has a theme - children.
Families matter because, in them, she sees the face of a shy little girl.

"I never dreamed back in those days that this would happen to me, that I would have a chance to do this and do things that make other lives worthwhile. You know, what a blessing I've had. I'm blessed," Yu said.

She is blessed in many ways. One of them is father time has blessed her with a look that never ages. Are there beauty secrets? How old is she?
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