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Anne Peterson's long run as KCTV anchor is over

July 10, 2003

Anne Peterson's days as a KCTV news anchor are over. The station has declined to renew her contract, which expires next week.

Peterson will be replaced, at least temporarily, by Dana Wright on Channel 5's newscasts at 6 and 10 p.m. KCTV general manager Kirk Black said Thursday that Wright would continue to fill in until a permanent replacement was hired. Peterson's health beat will be shared by various reporters.

The announcement came three days after a meeting between Peterson, Black and news director Regent Ducas. Following that meeting, Peterson left the building and didn't return. Staff members were told that Peterson, who had just returned from vacation, was taking sick leave.

In a e-mail to the newsroom Thursday afternoon, Ducas thanked Peterson for her years of service to Channel 5 and said a search for her successor would begin immediately.

Reached by telephone, Peterson recalled the good years working with colleagues at KCTV. Her voice tinged with emotion, she added, "I really am very, very thankful for these years of service to the Kansas City community, and I plan on continuing with that."

Indeed, neither side ruled out the possibility of Peterson's having some future responsibility with the station where she has worked since 1979.

Her attorney, Richard Ralls, said, "We're not foreclosing some ongoing relationship with the station. We just know it's not going to be the anchor-reporter role Anne has had the last 24 years."

Ralls would not say whether Peterson was looking into on-air employment at other stations except to say, "Obviously, options are now opening up."

Peterson is the latest veteran to exit KCTV under its current leadership. Reporters Reed Black, Geri Gosa and Teri Schaefer left last year.

Her existing three-year deal, believed to pay her about $185,000 per year, made Peterson one of the highest-paid employees at Channel 5, at a time when Meredith Corp. stations were aggressively cutting costs.

Black, however, said compensation was not a motive in his decision on Peterson.

"Let me be clear, unequivocally: Neither I nor Regent has made a single decision based on budget," he said. "Regent's budget has stayed the same....We're continuing to invest heavily in news."

Black also said that ratings at 6 and 10 p.m. remained strong for Channel 5. Neither he nor Peterson would comment on the reason her contract wasn't renewed.

"The news in the past year has gone in a different direction, and now I am no longer part of that," Peterson said. "That's OK. I'm actually very excited about the opportunity to explore other options, whether in broadcast news or serving the community in other ways."

She added, "I've always turned every negative into a positive."

At 23, Peterson, then known as Anne Brunk, was promoted to co-anchor alongside Wendall Anschutz after just three months at Channel 5. They worked together 22 years until Anschutz retired in 2001.

By then, Peterson was only working the 5 p.m. newscast, in addition to health reporting. But in April 2002, in a surprise move, she was promoted once again to the 6 and 10 p.m. co-anchor spot, replacing Dee Griffin. On Thursday, the same managers who assigned her to the high-profile role announced her departure.