Peggy Breit clearly remembers the day Lamonte McIntyre, a man wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years for a double-murder he didn't commit, was released from jail in Oct. 2017.
Covering his story had a deep impact on the KMBC reporter for one reason: He was the same age as her oldest son.
"I could not even imagine what it would be like," Breit said. "During the course of our coverage and getting to know him and the attorneys and all those things, then going to the court case and having that exoneration happen right in front of us — it was so powerful, so moving.
“That, to me, is one of the most impactful things — that I feel I was able to contribute to shining the light on his case. That meant a lot to me.”
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How much Breit, who has been with KMBC for her entire professional life, cares about her work and the people she covers has made an impact on her coworkers — many of whom are also Breit's close friends. Her sense of empathy for people on their "worst day" makes her retirement at the end of the month even more bittersweet, said Donna Pitman, an anchor and reporter at the station.
"Peggy has done it longer and in particular, I would say, better than most,” Pitman said. “Peggy is the one you want to see. Peggy is the one you want to talk to in terms of a reporter.”
Breit started at KMBC part time after a walkway at a Hyatt Regency collapsed and killed 114 people south of downtown Kansas City at Crown Center in 1981. She said her job then was filing and logging the station's taped coverage of the tragic event.
By February of 1982, she was juggling full-time work at the station while raising three young children.
"It wasn’t very common then. Now, half our newsrooms have kids, and dads are just as involved as moms,” she said. " (If my kids were sick) I would kind of say that I wasn’t feeling well because I didn’t want my kids to be a problem with the station.”
In 2008, Breit and two other women were part of a lawsuit against KMBC alleging age and gender discrimination. The suit was mutually dismissed two years later, and the three women stayed at the station.
“At that time, we felt like we needed to do something. And in the course of long-term relationships, sometimes you do have rocky times,” she said. “But in the end, we all came through it and I hope both sides are better for it in the end.”
As she prepares to leave journalism, Breit said she worries sometimes about where the field is headed.
“I worry the most about newspapers, quite honestly. In my view, the way I’ve always seen it is (newspapers) do more of the in-depth stuff," she said.
“It’s the number one thing that separates democracy from any other kind of government. And you have to have that vigorous free press. If you can’t get reporters out there covering stories in depth, you’re not really doing what you’re there for as the Fourth Estate.”
Breit will sign off at KMBC for the final time on June 29. After that, she said she’s looking forward to spending the summer with her grandkids and, for the first time since she was 15, simply not having to get up in the morning to go to work.
“The worst part is going to be saying goodbye to such great people,” she said through tears. “I’m going to miss everybody here and miss meeting people in the way that I have over time.”