Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame inductee Patty Loew, a former PBS Wisconsin host and producer, sitting on a park bench with a blue background.

Patty Loew to be inducted into WBA Hall of Fame

May 21, 2024 Mike Devine Leave a Comment

Former PBS Wisconsin host and producer Patty Loew will be inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association (WBA) on Thursday, June 20, 2024, during the WBA Summer Conference in Fond du Lac.

At PBS Wisconsin, Loew co-hosted Weekend from 1993-2002, an-hour long news, public affairs and interview series, before hosting In Wisconsin from 2003-2011. During this nine-year run, the news-magazine featured hundreds of stories about people, places and issues in Wisconsin. She also hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day coverage for PBS Wisconsin.

Loew, an enrolled citizen of Mashkiiziibii (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe), has produced documentaries for public and commercial television, including Way of the Warrior, which aired nationally on PBS. She is also an award-winning author and a former member of the national board of directors for both UNITY: Journalists of Color and the Native American Journalists Association.

After earning master’s and doctoral degrees in mass communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Loew became a professor at UW-Madison in 1999. She is professor emerita in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and served as the inaugural director of NU’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research before retirement.

Further information about Loew’s many accomplishments can be found at womeninwisconsin.org

Loew will join 160 broadcasters who have previously been inducted into the WBA Hall of Fame. Created in 1989, WBA Hall of Fame members have at least 25 years of experience in the broadcasting industry and are elected based on “integrity, leadership and impact on their station(s), communities served and the state of Wisconsin broadcast industry.”

Before her Hall of Fame induction, Loew’s spoke with PBS Wisconsin to share her reflections on some of her career accomplishments and her thoughts on receiving this honor.

PBS Wisconsin: Starting from the very beginning, who or what inspired you to pursue your path in journalism?

Patty Loew: Probably the biggest influence was a student affairs person at UW-La Crosse who encouraged me to take a test, because between my freshman and junior years I changed majors seven times. I’m told that I have the record for most official major changes. One of the student advisors remarked that I had a short, but intense attention span, so, maybe I should try journalism, because a journalist is able to be curious about any number of fields. I took my first journalism class and loved it.

PBS Wisconsin: Tell us about your first full-time position after graduating from UW-La Crosse.

Loew: The resident broadcaster and owner of the radio station (WKTY-AM/WSPL-FM) in La Crosse had a debilitating health issue, so I became a full-time farm reporter. It was just insane, because I had grown up in a housing project in Milwaukee and I’d never seen protein that didn’t arrive under cellophane. I knew nothing about anything regarding agricultural issues. But, the public library was right across the street from the radio station. In between my shifts I would go there and read everything I could about milk marketing, and dairy price supports, and farm bills, and eventually it became something that I became more credible in reporting — but also something that really fascinated me.

Even to this day, I find agricultural issues — like food security, Native American food sovereignty, farm-to-table cooking, and everything related to food and natural resources — really fascinating.

PBS Wisconsin: After starting as a reporter on the radio, how did you break in as a television reporter?

Loew: I was the only female radio reporter [in the La Crosse market] and there were no female television reporters in La Crosse, so both TV stations contacted me the same week to offer me jobs without even having to audition. I was the only female electronic broadcaster in town.

I took the job that offered more money [at WXOW-TV] and my first day on the job was Jan. 1, 1976. I got into the newsroom and was observing, but at 5:30, they put a script in my hands and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re anchoring the six o’clock news,” and I was terrified.

It was probably good that they did that because I didn’t have time to get overly raw and nervous. With no TV experience at all, I anchored this newscast. I was nervous enough where I was really reading quickly. And, I got to the end of my script and there’s still 30 seconds on the clock and I had about 10 seconds left on the script.

So I started really slowing down and then I was frantically trying to think, “How do I even get out of this?” All I could think about was how Walter Cronkite, who was everybody’s favorite newscaster, always leaned forward and shuffled his papers and then he leaned forward again purposely and stared into the camera and said, “And that’s the way it is in America on January 1st.” So that’s what I did. I shuffled my papers. I leaned purposely forward. I said, “That’s the way it is in La Crosse, Wisconsin on January 1st, 1976.” When I leaned back, my palms were sweating so much that the last two pages of my script stuck to my hand.

But I got better and then moved to Madison where I spent 27 years on and off anchoring a newscast for a commercial station and then hosting news and public affairs programs for PBS Wisconsin.

PBS Wisconsin: You then moved to Madison to pursue an opportunity as an anchor and reporter at WKOW-TV before a nine-year stretch as a host, co-host, reporter and producer among other roles at PBS Wisconsin. What stands out most when you look back on that time in Madison?

Loew: Well, I told you how many majors I had and one of them was political science, which I wound up with a minor in. I had moved to Madison from La Crosse primarily to anchor the evening newscasts, but also to cover the Capitol because this was a passion of mine. Weekend, which was the first news and public affairs program that I hosted with Dave Iverson, and later In Wisconsin was this wonderful program that was a mixture of pre-taped pieces about art and culture in the state and live interviews about the weekly events at the state Capitol for major policy issues.

I had the opportunity to work alongside one of the finest journalists in the country, Dave Iverson. And, together we created a really good environment for civil discussions. I’ve talked to people since and I wonder if we’re ever going to get to a point where Democrats and Republicans can sit at a table together. The role that Dave and I played was to throw the political bone on the table and chew at it and then pull it off. The discussions were really spirited, but they were civil and respectful.

It was serious business for us, but we took the opportunity to poke fun at ourselves as well.

PBS Wisconsin: You wrote and produced a documentary that aired on PBS National titled Way of the Warrior. How has being an enrolled citizen of Mashkiiziibii, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, impacted your work?

Loew: I think my Native American identity, my drive to get more Native people into storytelling, whether it’s for mainstream media or tribal media, has really been a driving factor in my career. There are so few of them. In fact, I may have been the only Native American woman in mainstream broadcasting in Wisconsin, and I know I was one of just a handful in the whole country. So, I have tried to do what I could to get more Native people into newsrooms, which was really important to me, because if there’s nobody in the newsroom to stop something that is pejorative or stereotypic or just wrong, those mistakes are going to compound and be repeated. So having gatekeepers is important, and it’s not just for Native people, because this goes for anybody who is part of a community of color or communities that have been underrepresented. It’s really important to have those voices in the newsroom or in editorial boards so there’s a presence and people feel heard. That’s been really important for me. And, also to be the one that says there’s a really good story here in this particular Native community.

There’s a lot of really interesting news in Native American country, whether it’s food sovereignty or climate change solutions. We’ve been adapting to climate change ever since the last Ice Age so we know some things. Maybe come to us and ask. So I think there are opportunities to do stories that are relevant, not just in Indian country, but relevant to the United States and the planet as a whole that are unique, that are interesting, that are visionary and that are innovative.

An in-depth Q&A with Loew about ‘Way of the Warrior’ was published on pbswisconsin.org in 2019.

PBS Wisconsin: Your transition into higher education began with professorships at UW-Madison before becoming professor emerita in the Medill School of Journalism and serving as the director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research and at Northwestern University. What opportunities did these appointments present to you?

Loew: When I left professional broadcasting and moved full-time into academia, it gave me another opportunity to influence the kind of recording that’s done on communities of color and create classes that provided experiential learning opportunities for students. Entire coursework, where during the first five weeks, they were taking a deep dive into a Native American community. In week six, we would travel there and spend time. Students would develop the relationships that they had already begun building in the beginning of the class and then during the last couple of weeks, they would be developing stories. Then the things that I tried to instill in my students was not to go into it thinking about a community with a preconceived story, but to go into the community, develop relationships and ask, “What are the stories that are misreported or underreported?” “What do you want people to know about your community?”

… As an educator, I had this opportunity to help nurture new generations of journalists who would be covering the news in Native American nations in a different way. I’m as proud of my academic career and influence in helping to promote higher standards in professional broadcasting.

PBS Wisconsin: There are currently 160 members of the WBA Hall of Fame. Have you thought about the significance of being a part of that group? Does that factor into how you look back at your career?

Loew: What’s really meaningful and touching about being included in a small group of people that are in the WBA Hall of Fame is that this is a selection by my peers. The fact that my colleagues in broadcasting think that what I’ve done is meaningful, that I’ve acted with integrity and that I’ve contributed to the improvement of our profession means a lot to me. Storytelling is something that has existed since the dawn of time. We can communicate with each other. It’s the way we elevate ourselves. It’s the way we grieve together and we celebrate together. I’m very proud to have been a journalist and I’m very proud that my peers think that I’ve done something meaningful to elevate the standards of our profession.

PBS Wisconsin: How do you want to be remembered as people learn of all of your accomplishments through the Hall of Fame?

Loew: I would like to be remembered as somebody who gave voice to the voiceless, who believed in volunteerism and civic participation, who believed in democracy and the relationship that reporters play in relation to democracy. I’d like people to understand that I really felt committed to Native American communities and wanted to increase the participation of Native people in the democratic process in reporting. And, that I wanted to do stories that presented Native communities as the complex, beautiful communities they are, and not as only victims of some historical events, but who fought for justice and for people in other communities. I chose stories that presented them as complex multi-layered societies.

2 thoughts on “Patty Loew to be inducted into WBA Hall of Fame”

  • Congratulations on this great achievement of a lifetime of sharing Wisconsin and Native stories with all of us. I think of your great debate moderation on international affairs between Professor Sharpless and Tammy Baldwin for the US Senate seat for WI and your wonderful moderation of a great workshop on the Penokee Hills and the proposed Taconite Mine for the WI Environmental Health Network!
    Thanks so much for your wisdom, sage advice and hard work on the environment and other important voices for all peoples in Wisconsin. Peace and sooner, Ann

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