The 1970s brought change to television news. Women started to join news teams across the country. In 1979, a bright, young journalist came to Kansas City and embarked on what would become a legendary career. Her name is Anne Peterson.
Peterson grew up in Lake Geneva, WI. She went to college at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her career in news began shortly after graduation in South Bend, IN. An executive with KCMO-TV, as KCTV5 was known at the time, spotted the budding journalist and offered her an opportunity to move to Kansas City.
"He called me and said, 'are you interested in making a move in your career?' And I thought, ‘oh my goodness, I'm so young. Am I ready for this?' I said absolutely. Life is about units and options. So you have to take advantage of opportunities when a door opens, you just have to go for it," Peterson said.
When she started, she was just 22 years old. Peterson was the youngest person to anchor the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts in the country. She was paired with veteran newsman, the late Wendall Anschutz.
"When I came here, I just fell in love with Kansas City. And I thought, ‘I'm really excited to make this home.' And I think what made it seem like home was that I felt a sense of family with everyone in the newsroom," she said.
She quickly earned her stripes covering big stories like the Kemper Arena roof collapse in 1979, the deadly Hyatt Regency walkway collapse in 1981 and other stories that shaped Kansas City's history.
Peterson also did daily "Family Health" segments. She was the first anchor in Kansas City to specialize in health and family issues.
Peterson also championed causes close to her heart. One of those causes was organ donation. She did a story in the mid-90s about a family whose son needed a liver transplant. Peterson followed them before, during and after the transplant.
That experience led her to start a special series of stories called Angels Among Us, which featured reports about organ and tissue donation. She also became a board member for the Gift of Life foundation, which was founded by the family she followed in the mid-90s.
It was something that she would be closely connected to years later. It was 2009 when she got a visit every parent fears.
"You see this police car careening into your cul-de-sac and into your driveway and they say, 'do you have a son named Bryan?' And from that day forward, life changes forever," she said.
Her son Bryan had died in a car crash. But he left the gift of life behind, having already chosen to be an organ donor.
"We all go through loss and, as difficult as it is to go through that loss, it's how we grow through that loss that defines our journey for the rest of our life. Nothing is ever going to be the same, nothing is ever going to be normal again. You find a new normal. And what that new normal is, is how you grow through that loss and turn tragedies in our lives into a blessing for others. That's how you cope and that's how you put one foot in front of the other," Peterson said.
It was a tragic experience for Peterson, but not altogether unfamiliar. At the age of 12, she was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. Doctors told her parents there was nothing they could do. She lay in a coma for three days.
"God and I had a talk. He said, 'Anne, I'm not done with you yet. I'm not going to call you home yet.' It was life-changing for me. He says, ‘you still have more to do, but you have to do it my way," Peterson remembered.
Even at such a young age, the conversation would prove to be an epiphany. She said, from then on, she followed on God's path for her. It was a path that eventually led her to Kansas City.
"When I look back at my 25 years as a news anchor here at KCTV5, I think the most important and the nearest and dearest memory that I have is working with Wendall Anschutz. I feel so blessed that Wendall and I were a team for 22 years. He was the Walter Cronkite of Kansas City. He was the Charles Kuralt as a reporter and Walter Cronkite as a news anchor," she said.
Peterson and Anschutz anchored together for 22 years. They became the longest running news anchor team in the country.
"He was my mentor as well as my co-anchor. Every day, I learned so much from him and he was extremely special. He was the same on camera as he was off camera and he was so genuine. He was so near and dear and I feel so blessed for working with not only Wendall, but the news team I had through the years," Peterson said.
That news team won multiple awards and made KCTV5 one of the highest rated television stations in Kansas City.
Peterson moved onto a new phase in her career in 2003. She established "Anne Peterson Productions." She produces, writes and anchors video productions for medical, corporate and charitable organizations. She works as a spokesperson for John Knox Village, Cancer Treatment Center of America and other organizations. Peterson works as a communications and marketing consultant and a publicist. She also serves on numerous boards including Gift of Life foundation, American Heart Association and Shadow Buddies foundation.
Peterson came to Kansas City for a job, but she ended up finding a home in Kansas City and KCTV5.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone in Kansas City for being so special, for watching, for believing in me, for inspiring me, for encouraging me, for supporting me from the time I was 22 to the time - well, now. My career has gone through highs and lows and twists and turns, but I'm still here and through all the change, I have grown and Kansas City has helped me grow and has stood by me through thick and thin and for that I'm forever blessed," she said.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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