Tracy Lucht came home with the hardware from the American Journalism Historians Association conference in St Paul, Minn. Her paper, “‘Television’s Closet Revolutionary’: Mary Jane Odell and Her Fight for Public Affairs Programming,” won two awards at the annual meeting.
Lucht, an assistant professor in the Greenlee School, received the Maurine Beasley Award for outstanding women’s history paper and the David Sloan Award for top faculty paper. The work was co-authored with her former graduate assistant, Chunyu Zhang, who is now in a Ph.D. program at Ohio University.
Lucht’s study looked at the broadcasting career of Odell, “a mainstay in Midwestern television for 30 years as the host of a variety show in Des Moines and a two-time Emmy Award winner for her public affairs programs in Chicago,” she said. “This study is part of my larger examination of the experiences and representations of women journalists in the Midwest, a region that has been overlooked in media history.”
Odell was acclaimed for her in-depth interviewing, Lucht said. “She rose to become Iowa’s secretary of state, contributing an important voice to the broader debate over television content and women’s roles in the media.”
Odell died in 2010 at age 87. She began her Iowa broadcasting career in 1955 at KRNT Channel 8 in Des Moines in the days of black and white programming that featured few females. After eight years in Chicago, she returned to Iowa in 1975 and worked at Iowa Public TV. Five years later Gov. Robert Ray appointed her secretary of state and in 1982 she was elected to the position.
Lucht is the author of a biography of another media pioneer: Sylvia Porter: America’s Original Personal Finance Columnist, published by Syracuse University Press last year.
– Steve Jones