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Norma Goodman is often referred to as “Alaska’s First Lady of Television.” As the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences noted when awarding her an Emmy, “Norma Goodman set the standard for broadcast journalism in Alaska for over five decades. Long before Alaska’s statehood, Norma took to the airwaves in 1953, bringing a sense of community to the Last Frontier. At the time of her passing, Norma had the longest running show in America and she was still bringing quality to the lives of Alaskans. Half a century of touching the lives of thousands of people and hundreds of organizations, Goodman’s dedication to the community remain unmatched.”
In a five-decade career that spanned the dawn of television in Alaska to its entry into the digital age, she worked as a tireless advocate for public good while producing a daily show that connected Alaskans to their communities, the region, and beyond.
Goodman was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, but moved to Canada’s west coast as a teenager. She was drawn to broadcasting from a young age; at 17, she was on the air at CJGX Radio in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. She moved to Vancouver, British Columbia at 19, and although she was training as a dental nurse by day, she was also hosting a music and conversation show on CBC Radio at night.
In 1952, she married John ‘Sid’ Goodman and began her adventure in Alaska. She started in Alaska radio as a copywriter at KBYR. Augie Hiebert, one of the pioneers of Alaskan media, asked Norma to put together a daily “woman’s show.” She joined the staff of KTVA in early 1954, and later that year, she went live on the air with “Hostess House,” a combination of cooking and household tips, along with public affairs interviews. A great many people have talked about how—especially in those early years when Anchorage was a relatively small town—“Hostess House” was their way of connecting to the community, to know what people were doing and how they could help their neighbors.
She was a woman who broke boundaries for her gender, but did it with humility and grace. She was the first woman with a regular daily live broadcast show and the longest-serving talk show host in television history. In 1961, she became the fifth woman—and first Alaskan—to fly a tactical mission in a TF-102A “Delta Dagger,” which at the time was America’s first line of aerial defense against a Soviet strike. Because there were no oxygen masks fitted for women at that time, the handlers just had to crank the men’s facemask tighter and tighter, resulting in Goodmangiving the report on air days later with two black eyes.
Goodman was known not only for her ability as a broadcaster, but also for her extraordinary generosity of spirit and commitment to her community. Her work with community organizations, from March of Dimes to Catholic Charities to the Mental Health Association, spanned five decades. As the Alaska Legislature noted in its declaration honoring Goodman, “A wide range of organizations in our State have benefited greatly from Norma’s hard work and fund-raising efforts. Some of the groups she’s been actively involved in include the YMCA, PTA’s, the Salvation Army, the Cancer Society, the Alaska National Guard and various other military organizations…Over the years, Norma has received many prestigious awards and honors, acknowledging not only her involvement in her live, but also her involvement in life….The members of the Sixteenth Alaska legislature congratulate Norma Goodman, a woman whose accomplishments and generosity have rendered her an invaluable citizen of Alaska and we thank her for her kindness.”
As a naturalized citizen, Goodman was fiercely patriotic. She was a tireless advocate of military support. She received the Americanism Award from the Air Force Sergeant’s Association, citing her for her “love of America; her loyalty to her institutions as the best yet designed by man to secure life, liberty, individual dignity and happiness; and the willingness to defend our flag against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” She was a regular representative to employers on behalf of the National Guard, and was a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS), appointed by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Throughout her career, she worked with all branches of the military, as well as the reserve, to ensure the security of Alaska’s borders.
In the 1970’s, Goodman’s profile on the network expanded, and she took on the roles of morning and mid-day news anchor, as well as co-anchoring Eyewitness News. She also anchored the election coverage for KTVA during these decades. She did all of this while being a mother to her four children—Fraser, Leslie, Kelly, and Stuart—it made for some very hectic years, by her account.
Over the years, the show hosted a vast number of public officials, movie stars, dignitaries, non-governmental organizations, and charitable organizations. From the Archbishop of Canterbury to Mary Tyler Moore, from Lorne Greene to Walter Cronkite, most everyone who came through Anchorage ended up on Goodman’s show, and often with an invitation for dinner at her house.
Goodman spread her service activities across a range of organizations, serving on the boards of, among others, the Alaska Mental Health Association, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, the DOD Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, the Cancer Society, the Anchorage Women’s Club, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Task Force.
Among her many awards and citations for public and community service, as well as excellence in broadcasting, are the following:
McCall’s Gold Mike Award, category of Broadcaster Service to Community – 1961
Mental Health Association, Award for Service – 1959, 1970
American Legion, Americanism Through Youth Award – 1970
Daughters of the American Revolution, Americanism Medal – 1972
Army and Air National Guard Meritorious Service Award – 1972
March of Dimes Service Award – 1972
Alaska Congress of Parents and Teachers Merit Award – 1972
National Guard Bureau Guardsman Award – 1977
Muscular Dystrophy Association Citation of Merit – 1974, 1979
Alaska Tuberculosis Association Outstanding Service Award
American Cancer Society Outstanding Service Award
International Jaycees Outstanding Service Award
Alaska Press Club Best Women’s Program – 1972
United States Navy Recruiting, Certificate of Appreciation – 1972
Outstanding Citizen Award, presented by Mayor Sullivan – 1974
American Lung Association, Public Service Award – 1979
Association for Retarded Citizens, Meritorious Service Award – 1957 through 1977
Anchorage Republican Women’s Club, Press and Media Award – 1976, 1978
National Federation of the Blind, for Outstanding and Dedicated Assistance – 1978
Alaska Paramedical Association Outstanding Service Award, 1978
Alaska Children’s Services, Service Award – 1979
National Guard Bureau “Guardian Angel” Award, 1990
American Association of Volunteer Administration Award – 1990
“Alaska’s First Lady of Television,” hosted the longest-running single-host program in the history of television. Norma Goodman came of age in an era when broadcasters were vested with a duty to serve the public interest in ways that fostered a healthy democracy. She seized the opportunity and helped us share the best of our community with one another. Goodman and her show embraced the spirit of the public interest standard in broadcasting and served the Anchorage community 5 days a week for nearly 50 years. In 1953 she created the first woman’s public service TV show in Alaska on the first TV station to go on the air, KTVA. The Norma Goodman Show, originally named “Hostess House,” served the local community for 47 years, with success due to her charisma, frank honesty, and integrity. Goodman was a citizen who subscribed to conservative values while championing progressive causes to build a more just and fair world. Embodying a spirit of hyper-localism, her daily talk show featured local talent, change makers from a diverse range of nonprofits and community organizations, who came on to discuss public issues and policies. Each guest had a story to tell and a cause to champion, and Goodman created a space for dialogue, creating a deep well of community bonds that bridged ideological and political divisions. During those decades, she was raising four children and some of her grandchildren. As a working mother who felt a kindred spirit with the challenging work of building community both within and beyond the domestic sphere, she entered numerous homes through a TV screen to support the health and well-being of women, children, youth, and families. She was and is beloved by many for both her professional and personal integrity and compassion.