Penny LeGate: A Repurposed Journalist’s Wildest Dreams

Posted: February 17, 2012 in employment

Penny LeGate’s Tips for becoming a Re-purposed Journalist:

  1. Find something you’re really passionate about.
  2. Be willing to work really hard – for free.
  3. Find a way to insert yourself into a group of like-minded people.

Seattle’s Penny LeGate just had to ask, “Where are you guys from?”‘

The TV journalist had just noticed a group of doctors wearing scrubs in the lobby of an Addis Ababa hotel. LeGate was curious.

She was on a trip to Ethiopia covering polio eradication efforts there.

“Seattle,” was the response. The doctors were traveling in Ethiopia, working at a government-run hospital, serving the poor. Addis Ababa in east Africa and Seattle, Washington are 8,365 miles apart but all of a sudden LeGate had a “local” story.

Small world.

But not so small for a re-purposed journalist like Penny LeGate. “If you know a good story, you stumble upon it. And then you grab it.” The piece about those Seattle doctors will soon air on Seattle Channel’s City Stream program.

LeGate, asked that group of doctors because she’s inquisitive. Her DNA has “news” written all over it. She started in broadcast news as a summer intern at Nebraska TV in 1976 in Kearney, Nebraska. She was born and raised in the Cornhusker state.

LeGate has anchored in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Wichita and Omaha. Many in Seattle still know her as the co-host with Brian Tracey on KING 5’s Evening Magazine from 1986 to 1995.

She anchored at KIRO 7 TV from 1997 til 2010. She remembers the sadness at leaving KIRO. LeGate’s contract wasn’t renewed. She describes KIRO as a collegial environment but she grew tired of the TV news business. And she says, “I got tired of being told I wasn’t good enough.” KIRO 7 TV has declined comment for this post.

What’s her purpose now? “I’m a pipeline from a story to the people who don’t have any awareness of my issue. She speaks all over the world. LeGate says her biggest moment was serving as keynote speaker when Bill Gates addressed a Rotary International convention in New Orleans in May.  20,000 were there.

The Rotary’s main mission is to conquer polio. She says her job is to inspire them. “I tell them their story.” I tell ’em what it’s like to be on the front lines in the war on polio. “It’s a war that thanks to Rotary, is almost over.”  She traveled recently to remote Bihar, India to chronicle the fight against polio.

“The farther out I go, the happier I am.” I love watching these people fighting the disease, the people walking to deliver the vaccine.”

LeGate says there were no cases of polio in India last year. She smiles, “That’s amazing.”

LeGate believes strongly in the issue of social justice when it comes to health. She says it’s different having polio in a nation like India. “Kids in the U.S. have had access to polio vaccine for decades. Kids in India haven’t. Being handicapped in India is a helluva lot different. These people end up as beggars.”

In March, LeGate will be taking her tenth trip to Ethiopia. She’ll be videotaping Dr. Jim Guzek, a Tri-Cities ophthalmologist and other doctors’ efforts to restore sight to the rural poor through cataracts surgery. Ethiopia has the highest rate of blindness per capita of any country in the world.

This re-purposed journalist is finally following her own heart. “Everybody thinks I’m really nice but I’m a feisty bitch.” She just turned 57. “I wouldn’t exchange the gray hair or the lines on my face for a 25-year old brain.” Her work has taken her to Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Nepal, India and Nicaragua.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d see this much of the world.”

You can see LeGate’s new documentary called “Timeless Discoveries”, about 150 years of achievement in the College of Arts and Sciences. It airs on UWTV.

  1. jan culver says:

    Penny is incredible. Loved the story.

  2. Markovich Matt says:

    Love the Story John. I wish I could afford to work for free on projects like these.

  3. Larry Kreuger says:

    Thanks Pen….you’re the best!

    Cousin Lar

  4. Just happen to admire and love this woman and so happy she’s my friend!

  5. Penny so happy for you that you are doing what you love…and were able to turn the TV news situation into something fantastic! Wishing you well Always.

    • Karen,
      Feel free to share that link with anyone on your Facebook page. Penny’s leaving for another trip to Africa tomorrow and I’d like her to get all the exposure we can muster. Thanks, Yeager

  6. nancyshifren says:

    I had the pleasure to meet you in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You are doing an amazing job!!! we could live in a better world if we have more people like you!! Wishing you the best!!

  7. extremedanmc says:

    I met Penny over 20 years ago when she decided to climb a mountain. For her, that doesn’t seem like such an unusual challenge. Obviously, she did it. And we’ve been friends ever since. An incredible woman she is.

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