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Stu Levitan welcomes Madison native and former WISC TV sports reporter and anchor Jessie Garcia, in a conversation about her book Going For Wisconsin Gold: Stories of Our State’s Olympians, from our good friends at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
The spine-tingling thrill of victory. The mind-numbing agony of defeat. All on the world’s greatest athletic stage. In the 118 years after the first modern Olympics in 1896, there were more than 400 Olympic athletes with Wisconsin ties. In 2014 alone, more than 35 of the 230 athletes representing the United States were bound to the Badger state in one way or another.
Several Wisconsin Olympians are known around the world as among the greatest – or in fact, the greatest – ever to compete in their sport. Some are remembered only in their own small town. Jesse Garcia has focused on 22 of the most captivating stories; some of them you know, many you don’t.
Jesse Garcia’s story is pretty captivating, too. She was born in Madison in 1970 to a Jewish mother from Long Island and a Catholic Mexican-American from Chicago who met while working for Volunteers in Service to America, the so-called domestic peace corps. Her mother, Judy, turned her on to newspapers at a very early age; a few years later, it would be her step-father, Howard Landsman, who instilled in her a love of sports.
Jessie is our second straight guest who is a graduate of East High School, following last week’s appearance by Greg Renz, but the first Purgolder to have worked as a hostess at the old Ella’s Deli on East Washington Avenue. She went to Boston University, where she became assistant sports editor of the campus newspaper, and one summer got an internship at the sports department with the Madison CBS affiliate, WISC-TV, ch 3.
After graduating in 1992, they hired her as a part-time sports reporter – Madison’s first female sports reporter. Less than a month later, when sports director Van Stoutt fell ill, she was pressed into service to become the first female sports anchor in the state of Wisconsin. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, some sports fans let her know they were not happy hearing their sports news from a young woman.
Well, they were in a minority, because after two years at Channel 3, she stepped up to the Milwaukee market, covering sports for 23 years at WTMJ. Among her duties – hosting both the Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy Shows – again, becoming the first woman to host an NFL coach’s show. Those experiences provided the material for her first Historical Society Press book, My life with the Green and Gold: Tales from 20 Years of Sportscasting.”
During much of that time, and for a little bit afterwards, she was also a journalism instructor at several universities, including Marquette and UW-Milwaukee, while also writing and producing corporate and video documentaries and doing audio narrations. Two years ago this month, she returned to WTMJ as Broadcast Director. Which is why we’re taping this conversation on Sunday morning, because she’s real busy on Monday. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison Bookbeat, Jessie Garcia.