Q & A with award winning professor

Dr. Kimberly Wilmot Voss, an assistant professor of Journalism in the Nicholson School of Communication, received two awards at the American Journalism Historians Association Convention in Tucson, Ariz.

“Food Journalism or Culinary Anthropology? Re-evaluating Soft News and the Influence of Jeanne Voltz’s Food Section in the Los Angeles Times” received the David Sloan Award for the Outstanding Faculty Paper and the Maurine Beasley Award for the Outstanding Paper on Women’s History.

She answered some questions regarding her prestigious awards and recent work.

How did you come up with the idea to write about Jeanne Voltz?

I specialize in telling the stories of women’s page journalists from the 1950s and 1960s who are often left out of the historical record. Other than a few specific exceptions, women were restricted to the women’s pages at newspapers as journalists until the early 1970s.

Often, newspaper history is about hard news topics, things like politics, crime, etc. What is typically ignored is soft news, things like features, food and fashion – the topics that women were most likely to write about in the 1950s and 1960s. Telling the stories of these women is important to under the role of women in journalism.

A few years ago, two of the leading journalism industry publications wrote about the trend of food journalism – as if this was a new concept. There was no mention of the role women had played for decades in creating a foundation for food journalism. The women and their work were marginalized. I wanted to correct that.

Why is her work important?

One of the best examples of a food journalist from the 1950s and 1960s was Jeanne Voltz – of the Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times.  She also wrote several cookbooks, including one of first to consider barbeque as American cuisine. I examined Voltz’s work at the Times and found that she wrote about topics that are significant today – food safety, nutrition and consumer issues. In my paper for the American Journalism Historians Association convention, I also included a biographical sketch because so little is known about women food journalists. In doing so, I interviewed her daughter and former colleagues.

How do you feel about these recent awards?

I was pleased to win the AJHA Maurine Beasley Award for best paper on journalism history for two reasons. I deeply respect her work as a historian and she was my dissertation advisor who introduced me to the women’s pages. I was also pleased to win the David Sloan Award for top faculty paper because this means that women’s history is part of history itself – not just a special category.

What is next for you regarding your writing?

I am currently working on an article about the Milwaukee Journal food editor Peggy Daum and her work in establishing the Newspaper Food Editors and Writers Association. I plan to continue studying women journalists and their coverage of fashion, food and furnishings.

Keep up with Dr. Voss and her work on her blog. You can view it by clicking here.

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