If Kansas City had a Mount Rushmore for television news anchormen, Wendall Anschutz would surely have a place among them. He passed away this morning at age 71 after a battle with throat cancer. He was the face of KCTV news for 35 years.
I first noticed Wendall back in the early 70's while I was in high school. He was a first rate reporter. He could cover hard news but also had an easy style well suited to feature stories. What I loved about Wendall is that he came across the screen as middle of the road, even keeled, and a decent man. Eventually by the time I was in college he was the main anchor at the CBS station.
I've had the privilege of working with two of the great anchormen in Kansas City who have led their stations for more than a quarter century. I worked for Larry Moore at KMBC when I first came out of college. I will never forget Larry snapping at me, "Rinkenbaugh, working with you is like trying to make journalistic timber out of a twig." He has a glee in his eye and a nose for news and a cackle that will wake up any newsroom.
I spent nearly a dozen years working alongside Phil Witt at WDAF. Phil strikes me as being a lot like Wendell. He's a great reporter with incredible news judgment. I can remember going to the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco with Phil. We were both a couple of boys from the Midwest out on the town in the big city. We made memories on that trip that I will long treasure. It included a night of shooting the breeze with the legendary Kansas City television and radio anchor Charles Gray and one of the best reporters you'll ever find in Dave Helling, at a San Francisco hotel bar.
I met Wendall only once. He was all warmth. I'm sure Larry and Phil would both agree that he set the bar very high and they loved competing against him. It makes me sad to see one of the faces that I grew up with and in a way learned from leaving the scene. Wendall Anschutz made Kansas City a better place for lending his voice to the community. Thank goodness we still have Larry, Phil, John Holt and Kris Ketz carrying on that tradition.