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After nearly three decades of working on holidays and, more recently, missing most of her 13-year-old daughter’s junior high basketball games, Chrys Peterson had enough of the weeknight schedule required of an evening news anchor.
With her contract up at the end of this year, the longtime anchor at WTOL-TV, Channel 11, is leaving the station to spend more time with her family, husband Tom Runnells and their daughter Riley Runnells.
“I have this nagging thing about missing my daughter’s events and missing her last four years at home with us,” Peterson, 48, said. “[But] news is a 24-7 business … you have to be here certain hours and there’s no flexibility with that. At some point you have to say the sacrifice is too much, it’s taking a toll on my family.
“I only saw two [of Riley’s] games last year. One I took a day off and the other was a Saturday game. At the end of the day I feel like the sacrifice is too much. If I mess things up with her, anything else I’ve done in my life is not going to matter.”
Peterson’s husband is the bench coach for the Colorado Rockies and is with the team eight months of the year, she said. “At some point [Riley’s] kind of like an orphan. If I can’t be there when she’s doing something from February to October, she doesn’t really have anybody.
“The timing was just right for me to say good-bye. It was a really tough decision.”
Peterson said her last day at the station will be Feb. 28. There’s been no announcement on her replacement.
C.J. Hoyt, news director for Channel 11, said in an email statement to The Blade that Peterson will be missed in the newsroom.
“Chrys has been a fixture at WTOL and, more importantly, in this community for 20 years. I can’t begin to express how much she will be missed," he said. "The good news is that she’ll remain a part of this community and a part of the many projects that are near to her heart and important to our viewers and WTOL, like Race for the Cure. It’s certainly going to be impossible to truly replace her, so we’ll talk more about that at a more appropriate time.”
In a story that appeared Thursday evening on WTOL's Web site, Jerry Anderson praised his longtime co-anchor as "the epitome of professional journalism who also just happens to be a warm, caring, generous-to-a-fault person.
"For nearly 20 years, Chrys has gone anywhere and done anything for a great story or a good cause. Now she is doing something for the best cause of all — family," he wrote.
"As parents, we know the clock is ticking. Chrys is especially feeling that right now. Riley sings, acts, plays sports, and excels in the classroom. Chrys needs to be there for that, and now she will be."
Peterson graduated Magna Cum Laude from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. Her first professional broadcast journalism job was anchoring the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts at WHSV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Harrisonburg, followed by anchoring the morning and noon newscasts at WNEP-TV, the ABC affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pa.
In 1994 she joined WTOL, the same year as Anderson and Robert Shiels, now Channel 11’s chief meteorologist. The trio, along with Sports Director Dan Cummins, who joined the station in 1980, have been the CBS affiliate's evening news team for a decade. Their 5 p.m. weeknight broadcast was awarded an Emmy in 2012 for Best Newscast.
Peterson has also received Emmy Awards for reporting, including for her 2011 story "Behind the Badge," documenting the stress police officers endure on and off the job, as well as Community Service for her breast cancer awareness campaign. She has received three Edward R. Murrow awards for journalism, and awards from the Associated Press, including the 2011 Best Enterprise Reporting award.
But when asked what she’s most proud of during her career, Peterson referred to her 17-year segment, “Home for Keeps,” that aired during the 5 p.m. newscast, in which she featured a child or sibling group waiting to be adopted, as well as her work with Northwest Ohio Komen Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer. She has served as honorary chairperson since 1995 and helped to grow from 600 to 18,000 participants.
“The Race for the Cure has just been phenomenal to see that growth and to be on the ground floor," she said, "and all the dollars raised and the awareness we helped create.”
Peterson said she has no regrets about leaving broadcast journalism, though she acknowledges she’s going to miss the reporting and her coworkers. Meanwhile, she’s not sure what she'll do next. In 2012, Peterson completed her Master's of Organizational Leadership degree at Lourdes College. “Maybe I can put that to good use,” she said.
What she is certain of, though, is that she and her family are not leaving Toledo anytime soon. Local viewers will still be able to see Peterson — it will just be in area grocery stores and restaurants, and at her daughter’s events rather than delivering the nightly news on WTOL. “Just not on a regular basis, at least,” she said.
Contact Kirk Baird at email@example.com or 419-724-6734.