Politicos, Journalists, Friends Remember Gloria Penner
October 12, 2012 1:39 p.m.
Today's Roundtable features some of the many touched by Gloria's style, standards, mentoring and, most definitely, her sharp and insightful questions. They include:
Tom Karlo, KPBS General Manager
Susan Davis, Member of Congress
Ron Roberts, San Diego County Supervisor
Marti Emerald, San Diego City Council Member
The original editors: Bob Kittle, John Warren, Tim McClain, Kent Davy
Scott Lewis, CEO, VoiceofSanDiego
David Rolland, Editor, San Diego CityBeat
Amita Sharma, reporter, KPBS News
Alissa Joyce Barba, Editor, Fronteras Changing America Desk
Hank Crook, former producer, Editor's Roundtable
Debra Kodama, former News Assistant
Related Story: Politicos, Journalists, Friends Remember Gloria Penner
CAVANAUGH: This is a special broadcast of KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh with with KPBS senior editor, Mark Sauer. And today, we remember the voice that greeted KPBS listeners for Friday Roundtable discussions since 1998.
(Audio Clip) PENNER: I'm Gloria Penner, I'm joined by the editors at the Roundtable These Days in San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: It wasn't a Friday for listeners like myself unless I heard Gloria lead discussions on the big stories of the week. She and the Roundtable became must-listen radio.
SAUER: As most of you know, Gloria Penner died last weekend after battling cancer for more than a year. Today, we pay tribute to her more than 40 years at KPBS. And just as she did so many times, we welcome your calls. What are your memories of Gloria Penner? Give us a call.
CAVANAUGH: We're going to assemble all the original members of the editors Roundtable in a few minutes. They'll talk about the energetic and heated topics Gloria handled. But first, we'll spend some time remembering Gloria before the Roundtable.
SAUER: It's fair to say that Gloria Penner invented political news coverage on KPBS. And since the early 1970, she interviewed San Diego politicians. Here she is with then mayor Pete Wilson in 1979 asking him about his political plans after he did not get the Republican nomination for governor.
(Audio Clip) PENNER: So if that decision is made, and if you do run for mayor, you would not put your hat in the ring for a 1982 congressional seat?
PENNER: What about 1984?
WILSON: I can see this is going to involve compound hypotheticals.
PENNER: That's part of the charm of this program!
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: Joining us today is KPBS general manager, Tom Karlo.
KARLO: Good to see you.
SAUER: Ron Roberts.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
SAUER: And Marti Emerald
EMERALD: Thank you very much.
CAVANAUGH: Talk about Gloria as a journalist and interviewer. Her preparation and standards, the kinds of topics she was most interested in.
KARLO: Well, I think her real passion was politics. Even if she wasn't at work, she was a sponge when it came to knowing the April process, and she dedicated herself to really knowing the issues. And there's a lot of politicians who might say she knew the issues better than the politicians themselves. And she asked the probing questioning that people wanted to know. And she did it in a way that was very professional, very to the point, and never in a, really, a hostile way. She really invented the word civil discourse for us here at KPBS. And that's what made her so special for all of us. And we're going to miss her dearly.
SAUER: Ron Roberts, the other day you had adjourned the County Board of Supervisors meeting in honor of Gloria. Tell us about that.
ROBERTS: Well, I think for anyone in San Diego that's run for office, and to have been interviewed by Gloria, it was a rite of passage to some extent. She was just so well-prepared, and I was smiling as Tom said she was a sponge. Because I used to feel like a sponge being rung out after I got through!
[ LAUGHTER ]
ROBERTS: She paid attention to what you had to say, and it seemed like inevitably, she had another question. She had the follow-up question that would always be very thought-provoking. And it just -- you couldn't come in and not be prepared. You knew absolutely that she was going to be prepared.
SAUER: That differed from certainly other broadcast interviewers who got the quick bite, but not the --
ROBERTS: I don't want to talk about, you know, anybody that's doing a talk show or anything! But frequently, you find that things are maybe a short sound bite is the answer, and that's it. We'll move on. And frequently, you would find that people really weren't listening to the answer. They weren't expected even to learn anything from your answer. And I think that's where Gloria was engaged in a very different way that I would say virtually 90% of the people that are doing interviews -- Maureen excepted.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Thank you! Let me call out once against, and invite our listeners to join our conversation. We're remembering Gloria Penner. And our number here is 1-888-895-5727. Here she is with Susan Golding in 1989.
(Audio Clip) PENNER: As a Republican, I've been listening to the concept of the loss of private ownership of a company, whether it be a utility or not wouldn't really seem to fit into the typical Republican stance on things.
GOLDING: Well, I don't know what typical exactly means.
PENNER: Well, private enterprise, entrepreneurship.
GOLDING: Right. If private enterprise can do a better job and do it more cheaply, my tendency would always go to private enterprise. But the truth is, utilities even if run privately, they're so heavily regulated, it is not a truly private enterprise. Even if it has stock holders.
CAVANAUGH: And that's Gloria Penner and Susan Golding. On the phone with us is congresswoman Susan Davis. Hello, thanks for joining us.
DAVIS: Hi, I'm happy to join you.
CAVANAUGH: You knew Gloria for a long time. What was your experience being interviewed by her?
DAVIS: Well, our relationship does go back because I worked at KPBS during the days of the KPBS auction. So being in development, and she of course was in producing and on the radio and TV, I felt like she was just -- it was a special pleasure for me to have a chance to talk with her about any number of issues. And I guess the other thing that we shared a little bit, we happened to get our haircut at the same shop! So now and then, we would talk about that, the people that we knew there, and so when I went into politics, I think I thought maybe Gloria would give me a little slack now and then?
[ LAUGHTER ]
DAVIS: But she didn't! She never did. She always asked the hard questions, and the penetrating questions. And I can remember talking to my press secretary at one time, and actually we thought that Gloria just overcompensated because she was trying to be so impartial!
CAVANAUGH: I see. She went after you even harder!
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Let me go to the phones. Ed is calling from normal heights. Welcome to the program. Okay, well, let me stop that. We have a notation of what it is that your memory was of Gloria. You called in about immigration. She was so prepared to talk to Gloria, but accidentally you called her Barbara because she reminded you of Barbara Walters. Thank you for that! Congresswoman Davis, was there ever a time when she surprised you with her questions? Not on the phone anymore. Thank you for joining us, Susan Davis.
SAUER: And here's a clip of Gloria interviewing Mike Aguirre in 1986.
(Audio Clip) PENNER: Another "might be." And I'm just looking at your behaviors now, you seem so mellow. But four years ago, you were thought of kind of brash and contentious. Have you changed?
AGUIRRE: Well, I don't get up quick with the same spring in my step that I used to.
PENNER: You're not saying it's age?
AGUIRRE: Well, I think when I ran against Jim Bates I received a whopping 28.5% of the vote. And that has a really sobering effect.
SAUER: And that was Gloria back in 1986. Marti Emerald is a former broadcaster yourself. Tell us about Gloria's place as a pioneering woman in San Diego broadcasting.
EMERALD: Absolutely a pioneering woman. When I first time to town in 1981, 12 years after Gloria timely was able to get on the air, it was made clear to me that I was hired because they were required under the EEOC to put a woman on the air. So it was still an issue even 12 years after Gloria had taken that great step. But she did. She opened the door, she blazed a trail and made it possible for women to start taking their place alongside men in the anchor booth and on television, and not just as a pretty face, but as a professional journalist. I think all women in broadcasting owe a great debt of gratitude to Gloria Penner and others of her generation who did all that heavy lifting on our behalf.
SAUER: Let me throw this out to everybody. What do you think young journalists, and in the newsroom, we have interns, we work with young journalists all the time. What can they learn from Gloria and her style?
KARLO: I'd like to just say by being the young journalists that come through this organization, she raises the bar for where they want to be with their careers. She sets the tone. Her work ethic was incredible. Her knowledge of the issues were incredible. And if you didn't do your homework, you weren't measuring up to the standards that Gloria set.
EMERALD: And Tom, you made a statement at the beginning of this broadcast about Gloria's being the person who basically championed the cause of social discourse, of polite, respectful, honest social discourse, and that's a lesson we all can learn from her, whether we're in the media or politics, or just standing around the water cooler. She was informed, she was professional, and she respected other people. And you could tell. And I hope that the takeaway as we remember Gloria is perhaps to adopt her standard. When it comes to discussing or debating issues where we disagree, we can respectfully disagree with one another. And she's taught us that lesson too.
CAVANAUGH: And Ron?
ROBERTS: Well, I suspect Gloria had an advantage over a lot of people in that she had an intense interest in what she was doing.
SAUER: That's true there.
ROBERTS: And it wasn't so much about the technique of broadcasting, it was about the substance of what she was dealing with. And I suspect that's probably what would make it difficult even for a young intern with a lot of enthusiasm to understand that you really got to dive into this. It separates sort of the readers from the interviewers. And she did.
SAUER: There's no substitute for mastering the material, mastering the facts. And that's what was so impressive to me.
EMERALD: You're a longtime journalist too, Mark. And we know there's a character in most journalists who are serious about the craft, and that is their sense of curiosity. But that alone doesn't get you there. You have to work at cultivating it. When you ask question, you've got to be willing to go out and find the answers, and not presume before you make that search, but to be open to new information, new ideas and have the ability and the wherewithal and the desire to share that with other people.
CAVANAUGH: I want to squeeze in one more call before we end this segment. Stewart from La Jolla. Welcome to the program.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much! I can't give Gloria anymore accolades than your guests K. But I knew her as a customer of mine in a business. Gloria was a true people-person that always smiled, always took the time for other people. I always engaged her in political discussions, even while she was doing business with me. And she was just a wonderful person. Aside her job as a journalist, this was just a -- I can't say it enough. She was just a wonderful, caring person that cared everything related to life.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Stewart. What a nice thing to say. I'm sorry I interrupted you, Tom.
KARLO: I was just going to say that she was an incredible mentor to so many people. When you wanted to learn from Gloria, she took the time, and she would help you with your career. People like Scott Horsley from NPR, Ana Tintocalis, they revered her. I've been with the station 39 year, and I don't think I would have taken the management track without her encouragement when I was in my younger days in TV production to go into that. I just want to thank her for setting the bar very high and creating the direction, the vision that KPBS is going in right now.
CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you, Tom Karlo, Ron Roberts, and Marty Emerald. Thank you all for coming in and sharing your memories of Gloria with us.
KARLO: Thank you.
EMERALD: I really appreciate it.
CAVANAUGH: This is a special broadcast of Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. We're honoring KPBS broadcaster, Gloria Penner today. And joining me now, the group that formed one of the most popular and long running shows she hosted. The editors Roundtable. It's the original crew seated at the Roundtable today! Bob Kittle, form upper editorial director of the San Diego Union Tribune. Welcome to the show!
KITTLE: Thank you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Tim McClain, welcome.
MCCLAIN: Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: And John Warren, owner and publisher of San Diego Voice and Viewpoint. Good to see you.
WARREN: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And Kent Davy, editor of the North County Times.
DAVY: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: At KPBS we were all well aware that the editors Roundtable was Gloria's favorite. She took great care to make it the best news analysis show possible. But she did quite a number of programs before that! I'm wondering what you all might have thought about Gloria as an interviewer before you did the Roundtable.
KITTLE: That's an interesting question. When you were on the Roundtable with Gloria, you were being interviewed as much as anything else but Gloria. And oddly, the studio seems sort of strangely empty without Gloria.
KITTLE: She brought such a presence to the microphone. I think always we respected Gloria's ability to ask the tough questions. She was a hard-nosed journalist, and she always had that great passion for the truth. But in her position, she also had to be gracious. She had to be a gracious host. And I think that's something probably not demanded of a man. And she did that balancing act quite well.
CAVANAUGH: What were her expectations of a Roundtable panelist?
WARREN: Well, that's a very interesting question. She wanted us to be engaged, she knew we were prepared for discussion, and if we didn't go to the places she wanted to include, she had a general way of guiding and helping us get this. So in the end, it was not only inclusive. What we thought but inclusive of what she wanted to cover, without making an appearance of trying to innocence it.
CAVANAUGH: What homework did she expect you to do?
MCCLAIN: She expected a lot of homework. It gives me chills to be here on June of 29, when I told her the magazine was sold, and I wasn't going to be with it. She had you do a lot of preparation. And back to your earlier question, 21 years ago this month, I was doing a show of hers, and we were over on the campus in the older studios, and I was very nervous. Often nervous on her show. And this time, I was more nervous. I was younger. And my wife and I had just found out that we were pregnant. And I told her before the show, so she announces it as the show ends. Congratulations to Tim and his wife. And I get back to my office, on and the transcript, and the phone is ringing, and people are oh! Congratulations! That was one of the first times I realized the reach of being on media to people you directly interact with. And I had told virtually nobody.
CAVANAUGH: Kent, did Gloria make you nervous?
DAVY: No, I made myself nervous, probably. What was wonderful about Gloria, she understood that the market for KPBS was so much broader than the city here. And her ability to reach out and pull North County back into the generalized discussion always very, very insightful and very interesting. The question I dreaded was what does North County think about? And it was, like, I don't know!
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: I'm just one guy! Bob, how did the Roundtable get started?
KITTLE: Well, in the early day, they would have journalists on about once a week. But often just one journalist or two. And we sort of got to that stage where the journalists talking on the air.
DAVY: The editors, the not journalists. She was having editors on one at a time.
KITTLE: Well, that's true, in the beginning. That's right. And it evolved from that. And it evolved from Gloria's own thinking because she had a very clear idea, and she had what today would be considered an old fashioned idea in broadcasting to maintain tight control of the editors and other questioning. She was always in the center of the discussion. She didn't allow a lot of editors talking to each other. You talked to Gloria, and she asked you questions. And she had a wonderful trait that we were chuckling about a few moments ago in the greenroom. When it was time to get off the air for a break, she would take off her eye glasses, and she would do that either on television or radio, and that was a clue to all of us to end your answer, it's time to cut it off. And occasionally, there would be a newcomer who didn't know that signal. And Gloria then would graciously as she could, but firmly, make sure we got off the air on time for the break. She kept for tight control of the interviews.
CAVANAUGH: John, what particular topics could you see that Gloria was really interested in when she would really -- that little spark would come in her eyes and she was really wanting to talk about this? Was it always politics?
WARREN: Well, that's a very interesting question because while she was interested in what happened locally in San Diego, she was also interested in what was happening nationally. And I anthem national and international component that she would bring to the program, which allowed us to connect it with whatever local issues were relevant made a big defense. I also wanted to observe that. I think the importance to the editors as opposed to just journalists, we had an opportunity to objectively discuss the news, but at the same time she wanted opinion and feedback from us based on our experience and insight in the profession. And I think that was very important.
CAVANAUGH: It was a theme of the program. As listeners gained experience with you guys, they could probably tell how you were going to come down on a particular issue, right?
KITTLE: Oh, exactly. You pretty much had a good idea. And you asked about the work earlier, and I always felt that John and I, and Kent to a lesser extent, we're struggled the most to do the research because everybody came to bob. You would see if you could see on TV, John and I would come in with these note, we'd be up writing notes and underlining things. So we had in front of us our talking points, and bob never had a thing. Maybe a cup of coffee.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: That's good! Because the people who listen to the radio never knew these things. I'm glad you're giving this kind of color. And Kent, what was the first time you came on the Roundtable?
DAVY: I'm not sure that I remember exactly. I was sort of the fourth musk tear here. These were the A-team, and when one was on vacation or something, the producer would call me, any chance we could get you to drive down? Is that was my introduction to, come in as part of the substitute here.
MCCLAIN: She was always part of it though. Gloria hosted a wonderful dinner for our wives and the four of us, he was not a fourth musk tear. And it was a very memorable dinner at her house, and one of these things that gives me chills and I'll never forget.
CAVANAUGH: That reminds me of how Gloria handled phone calls. They were always sort of -- you got to hear the whole question, very, very polite most of the time.
KITTLE: That's exactly right. And all of the questions were not polite. Gloria was always very gracious in dealing with the callers. Sometimes they would be rather blunt and ramble. But Gloria in her sort of sensitive way would steer them to the end of the speech and get a question out of them and move on. But she certainly welcomed callers, even though they were often the most provocative part of the show. That was a good thing, and we liked that.
DAVY: There was, however, if you could have had a camera on Gloria in the quiet moment, she had great facial expressions, eyerolls and gestures. You know exactly what she thinks of that caller!
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: And yet always maintaining, "thank you so much."
CAVANAUGH: Arlene is on the line right now from Mission Hills. Welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Yes, thank you for including me. I have a couple memories of Gloria Penner. We came here in 1960, and as a faculty wife in the early '70s, she came and spoke before the faculty women's association at San Diego state. And I followed her career for years. And then later on, when KPBS did auction fundraising, we were able to bid on having dinner with Gloria Penner.
NEW SPEAKER: At the Marine room.
CAVANAUGH: So you won Gloria!
NEW SPEAKER: We won Gloria, yes. And even though it was the Marine room, she wasn't all dressed up. She lives in neighborhood, so she walked. And we had such a pleasant time with her. And she had the perspective of history that is hard for younger journalists to have anymore.
CAVANAUGH: Arlene, thank you so much for the call. I know that you've all sort of come prepared with a memory of Gloria. So let me start with you, John. Is there something you want to share with us about a particularly difficult, funny, important conversation that you remember on the Roundtable?
WARREN: Well, I always found Gloria very sensitive. I enjoyed my moments with her before the show. Often after the show. I enjoyed the phone calls that we had in the midst of challenges, she was always there as a friend, and she let you know that she was a friend. So I miss that. And I enjoyed that very much. And that made it much more than just a journalistic engagement.
MCCLAIN: On the show, she made me look good. And I'm forever in her debt. And it wasn't always on the show. I mean, after the show many times -- not many time, but she would call me aside and say something, don't say it like this, don't talk so fast, don't speak that word like that, you're mispronouncing it!
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Always the teacher!
MCCLAIN: Always the teacher. And that's another thing I'll never forget.
CAVANAUGH: And Kent?
DAVY: For me, it was a more private moment. My wife died about 5.5 years ago of cancer, and Gloria was so kind to me. I was awful a great deal of the time of that year, and not around the Roundtable much either. And Gloria was so kind. So when I received news that she had cancer, we could touch again base on a purely emotional level and say geez, I love ya. Blessings to you. And to share that little moment meant a lot to me.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that. And Bob?
KITTLE: I would say similar to what Kent just said. Gloria and I became personal friends as she did with all of us. But in the last several month, we did have a couple of discussions about her illness. And it was just a bond that we shared. And we talked a little bit about the inevitability of death. And so those were just moments that I won't forget.
CAVANAUGH: I appreciate all of you sharing these memories. And I know our listeners do too.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Here again with Mark Sauer. And we continue our special tribute to KPBS broadcast pioneer, Gloria Penner. We've talked about how Gloria's interview style and interests shaped political reporting here at KPBS. Now it's time to examine her legacy with a new generation of journalists.
SAUER: Joining us are Dave Rolland, editor of San Diego City beat. Good to see you.
ROLLAND: Great to be here.
SAUER: Scott Lewis, CEO of voice of San Diego.
LEWIS: Hi, mark.
SAUER: And Alisa Barba, editor of the fronteras desk here at KPBS. Dave and Scott, both of you have written about what you've learned from working with Gloria.
LEWIS: She had a real high standard for everything, really high expectations. I remember coming in, I was lucky to be on the show quite often. And I remember coming in, and I would yawn before the broadcast, and she would say are you yawning? What's the matter? Are you tired? Do you need coffee? Someone get Scott coffee!
[ LAUGHTER ]
LEWIS: You had to be on your game, and she had this perfection and this standard that you always had to prepare and you had to be ready for anything she might throw at you. And that taught me in many ways to make sure if you don't care about quality, nobody will. And she was the most elegant and gracious person in local media. And she just had a lot of gravitas for just a small person.
CAVANAUGH: And Dave?
ROLLAND: Yeah, I remember one time I did the show with a couple other editors, and one of the editors got a little bit chastised because she wasn't able to -- couldn't field one of the questions that she had asked. And I think the answer might have been in the supporting materials that the producer sends out, and she kind of punished him by saying, okay, well, maybe I just won't call on you anymore.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ROLLAND: I know it's been said already, but she was tough. It was like we were being interviewed. And I definitely worried about getting thrown curve ball questions that I couldn't answer.
SAUER: The schoolmarm syndrome.
ROLLAND: Yeah, but the other thing is, I didn't always want to -- when we talked about state or national issues, I wasn't always burning to try to localize it, to come up with the San Diego angle. But I think Gloria understood probably better than I did what San Diegans want to hear about. And they want this larger news to be made relevant to them. And so she was always very good about that.
CAVANAUGH: Alisa, sometimes guests are surprised when interviewers are well-prepared these days. It sort of takes them back. Gloria, I guess, must have been old-school about that.
BARBA: Gloria, she not only knew the subject you were supposed to talk about, she knew the subject everybody was supposed to talk about. And she didn't let everybody keep saying the same thing. She didn't let you get away with anything. And I think that a lot of the hosts who come in and do weekly shows, you have a lot of topics, a lot of things to get up to speed on, and you rely on the guests to be the expertise. You have a series of questions laid out, and you ask them. Gloria would never let you get away. She would have the follow-up, she would pin you to the wall. And my favorite Gloria story was being in the seat at one point, and she was, you know, talking, I had no idea what we were talking about, but as a journalist, I'm used to asking questions when I don't know the answers. So she leaned forward and said, who is here to ask the question? Is it you or me?
LEWIS: I think I might have been on that show!
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: If you could summarize, Scott, in a word what it is that you got out of your dealings with Gloria, what would that be?
ROLLAND: Friendship. I mean, she and I grew and had a good rapport, and we shared ideas, we moderated debate in April. And she was suffering from cancer, but she demanded a couple of books to sit on so that she wouldn't look so small compared to me in the chair. And she was so good, and so sharp. And I really felt like San Diego lost her, not just me. She was just a friend to the people who were trying to understand their city. And it was a deep loss.
BARBA: In a former incarnation, I did produce Gloria's show for a while, and I worked closely with the producers over the years. And it's kind of a cliche, but she was a mentor and role model for a lot of women journalists coming in. People were afraid of her. You didn't trifle with her. She was absolute. She had that corner office for a while, and she was the boss. But she was somebody that all of us as women journalists learning to do our craft, she was a great example to follow.
LEWIS: I guess diversity would be the word. I feel fortune I got to be on the diversification of editors Roundtable. It would not have been diversified without her buy-in. And she's done a lot for those newer media operations like CityBeat. And I will always appreciate it.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Dave, Scott, Alisa for sharing your thoughts with us.
SAUER: We've got a remembrance of Gloria's long association with the San Diego press club.
NEW SPEAKER: Gloria Penner was in fact instrumental in the founding of the San Diego press club in 1973. She was a member of the original steering committee and was among the first group of award winners later becoming one of the highest award winners in the club's history. In 1987, she joined the Board of Supervisors and remained on the board through this year. Last May, she was one of 18 former presidents celebrating the press club's 40th anniversary kickoff. She presented one of her last tasks for the club, presenting a scholarship to student Ruben mesa. She will be sorely missed at the regular board meetings, and press club events.
SAUER: That was KPBS radio news anchor Sally Hickson. Joining me on the phone is J. W. August of 10 news, a longtime August on the Roundtable. You there?
AUGUST: Yes, and a longtime listener too.
SAUER: Good to have you on today. Tell us about the first time you met Gloria.
AUGUST: Well, years ago, are in the early '80s, I was actually working at KPBS be in operations. Those are the technical guys. And Gloria was hosting a community program. Community affairs, political program. And she would come into the area where we worked, and she -- we struck up conversations because she would be looking for tapes from previous broadcasting done because she would want to recheck a comment that somebody made or some statement made, and she wanted to make sure that she got it right. And we'd have these conversations. It was always in a hurry, but we'd have these conversations, and it struck me over time, a long time ago how thorough she was, how honest she was. And fast-forward 25 years, I'm in the business now. I'm a journalist, I became a journalist. But I took a piece of Gloria with me all these years because I remembered what she was talking about. You got to make that one more call, dig a little deeper. You ask that one more question. And I always respected that in her.
SAUER: Thanks for calling in and joining us today.
AUGUST: Take care.
CAVANAUGH: And I'd like to introduce Amita Sharma, investigative reporter here at KPBS news.
SHARMA: Thank you Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Hank Crook, now marketing and communications coordinator with the Northwestern School of Law, but former producer of These Days and the editors Roundtable.
CROOK: Glad to be here.
CAVANAUGH: In some ways, Gloria Penner was a mentor for you. What did she teach you?
CROOK: Oh, so many things. I really admired her passion for journalism, and just work in general. I was amazed at her energy level for someone to be so much older than me, I really admired her love for the grind, and also just her eloquence. I think a lot of folks have mentioned that, and she was tough, but also very eloquent and just a master at politics of all different kinds.
SAUER: Amita, what did you learn from Gloria as a television host?
SHARMA: Well, you know, we talked a lot today about how she was such a great interviewer. She asked the tough questions, had this wonderful on-air presence. But I got to tell you, I learned a lot from Gloria about how to put her guests, especially on television, at ease. I was a reporter on the show, full focus, which she was the host of in 2006 and 2007. And a lot of the people who came on the show were bureaucrats. Some of them had never been on TV before or maybe just a little bit. And they were nervous. And she could sense that. They wouldn't always say it, but she could sense it. And understanding that, she would engage them in conversations about their lives. She'd ask them questions about current events and really loosen them up, make them relaxed. And once those cameras came on, they were so much less self-conscious. And that's something I learned from her. It was a real skill.
CAVANAUGH: Hank, I remember seeing Gloria in your little cubicle upstairs, preparing with you for the Friday editors Roundtable. And I just wonder, here we are in election season, a time that Gloria loved, really. She lived for these elections and the debates and the issues. Do you think that there's a story around now that she really would have relished?
CROOK: Well, I think she would have loved just covering this whole election that we have right now. She loved local politics, she loved state politics, she loved national politics. I'm sure he would be interested in the mayor's race right now, as well as the election for president that's going on. And she loved to interview the politicians. And that's one of the reasons why we bonded.
CAVANAUGH: Let me see if we have time to get Deborah Kadama on the line for a moment. She was a former assistant to Gloria. Oh, Deborah's not there. Let me ask you again, because Hank, I know you worked so closely with Gloria. She was a mentor to you, and also you talked about the age difference. For her age, when she was here, talk about her energy level. I don't know that we've actually talked enough about that. The it was just amazing.
CROOK: I was amazed with it. And I would come in at 8:00 AM, and she had been working for an hour and a half, writing the script for the show. She loved reading the research. There was never enough research for her. And that was inspirational to me. She was one of the hardest workers I've ever known, and she loved to host the show, she loved to be out in front of people and interacting with people. She loved the listeners and including them in the conversation. She loved this. And she lived for editors Roundtable.
SHARMA: And she was like that until the very end. Her last day was in July. And she gave the show no less on that day than she did years ago.
CAVANAUGH: Let me first of all thank you, Hank crook and Amita Sharma, and let us go to a clip from KPBS senior metro reporter, Alison St. John. She knew Gloria for more than 20 years, and she recorded this reminiscence.
ST. JOHN: Gloria made me a little nervous when I first started to appear on Roundtables that she hosted. As a reporter, I strove to be impartial. But Gloria was known to push the boundaries, and she would ask thick things like well, what do you think about this? Or what do you think will win in the end? She liked to put people on the spot and let them work their way out of it. I learned to navigate around these questions creatively, but she taught me how to be more myself on the air and not just a bland reporter. When I began guest hosting the Roundtable, I found myself thinking as a drafted questions, what would Gloria have asked? And those were often the questions that sparked the most discussion, those are the ones that weren't just about the facts of the case, but the more thought-provoking questions about what does this mean or what might happen next? I never saw Gloria badgering anyone, even if her questions were persistent. She had such a twinkle in her eye, and a need to know, there was just a sense she needed to satisfy her curiosity. She would pepper her guests with questions about themselves and what they thought before the interview began. She demonstrated how to hold people's feet to the fire while remaining perfectly charming. I hope a little of her example as rubbed off on me, and I'll always think of her with fondness and gratitude.
SAUER: What comes to me are words like integrity, preparedness, experience, and trust. She earned her reputation as broadcasting dean because of her passion for news and especially for politics. All the news I've been a news man in San Diego, the Roundtable with Gloria Penner was must-listening. You made sure not to miss what she was saying on a given day because you'd be missing something important. Now, Gloria, we all miss you very much.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Mark Sauer. And thanks to everyone who joined us today for this special tribute, everyone who called. Sorry we couldn't get some callers on the air, as Gloria used to say. But she'd thank you all the time anyway, and we should all remember that. This has been a special edition of the Roundtable on KPBS. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh.