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WTVP operations manager talks about changes over 37 years

Jackie Luebcke
Courtesy WTVP
Jackie Luebcke

Jackie Luebcke can recall her first day on the job at WTVP-TV Channel 47, Peoria’s public television outlet.

“The station was located on the Bradley University campus in a building that’s no longer here,” she said, referring to Jobst Hall, a building since replaced by the Business and Engineering Convergence Center. WTVP moved off-campus to a site on State Street in Downtown Peoria in 2003.

“It was 1986. There were six one-inch tape machines running. Programming had to be switched from one machine to another. That’s why the people who worked there were called switchers. Everything was done manually. There were no computers involved,” she said.

Programming on the station at that time ran from 7-10 a.m. and then returned in the afternoon from 3-11 p.m., said Luebcke, the station’s director of broadcast operations. She noted that more hours of programming were added over the years with the station eventually offering programs on a 24-7 basis.

Today, the station operates five channels around the clock, she said. In addition to the main PBS outlet, there are channels for PBS Kids, World, Create, and Remote, a station that was started during the pandemic to provide additional opportunities for students that continues its educational mission, she said.

But Luebcke said she’s been around central Illinois media since the age of 9. While growing up in nearby Washington, she delivered the Washington Courier, a weekly newspaper. At age 11, she became one of the first female carriers for the Peoria Journal Star. Her delivery route in Washington included 87 papers throughout the week and 103 on Sunday. “That’s when the papers were big and I was delivering them on my bike,” she said.

“I still remember being interviewed by Sharon Oberholtzer of the Journal Star in 1974 when I was in seventh grade after being named the first female finalist in the Young Columbus delivery competition,” she said.

Luebcke’s efforts helped her earn enough money to buy a horse. “That was Princess,” she recalled fondly. Today, Luebcke’s love for riding continues. “I have one horse now and we do local shows,” she said.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.