Gloria Penner, a pioneer in local broadcasting and a leading voice at KPBS radio/TV station on the San Diego State University campus for more than half a century, died just days before the Women’s History Museum was slated to hold a special tribute to her at a “Broads in Broadcasting” celebration of women who broke through the barriers in the broadcast world.
“In the 1970s, I was a vigorous believer that women needed better representation in business and society, and I worked hard to make that happen. I doubt my demeanor resembled the TV-film stereotype of the obedient, dutiful babe in the background,” Penner said, according to a press release issued by the Women’s History Museum.
The only child of a strong, single mother, Penner was born in Brooklyn and nurtured by her extended family of largely Russian-Jewish immigrants. The first in her family to attend college, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn Collage and a Master’s in English at Syracuse University. Penner taught biology, English, and later radio production, where she developed a passion for broadcast journalism. She worked at stations in San Francisco and Hawaii before joining KPBS as Director of Community Relations in 1969. In July 2012, she aired her last broadcast, when illness forced her to step down.
She created and hosted the “Editor’s Roundtable” program in 1998, which featured local editors discussing issues of the day. Gloria Penner was one of the most powerful, independent voices in the San Diego journalism community. She was an inspiration to aspiring journalists — a gracious host who didn’t hesitate to ask hard-hitting questions.
Penner interviewed many of San Diego’s most famous movers and shakers. She was known for her hard-hitting questions. For her efforts, she received many awards including seven Emmys, five Golden Mikes, two Gracies from the American Federation of Women in Radio and Television, numerous Society of Professional Journalists honors, and the San Diego Press Club’s Harold Keen Award for excellence in journalism. In 2003, the League of Women Voters created its annual Gloria Penner Award for Civic Service — with Penner as the first recipient.
In a 2009 interview with “San Diego Magazine,” Penner discussed how she honed her interviewing skills through trial and error. “The first essential is to be prepared,” she said. “The second essential: ask no questions that can be answered with a yes or no. And have no fear. I’m never in awe of my guests, be they governors, mayors or city attorneys.”
She had a passion for politics, but also believed it important to highlight the struggles of working people, women, minorities, and seniors as well as devoting attention to arts, music, literature and science.
Originally appeared in the “East County Magazine” on October 6, 2012. Used by permission.