Iowa Hawkeyes

Say hello to our new Iowa football writer

Ogden column: Leah Vann will join Gazette staff on Jan. 11

Leah Vann poses inside the Iowa football practice facility in 2017 while on staff at the Mason City Globe Gazette. She w
Leah Vann poses inside the Iowa football practice facility in 2017 while on staff at the Mason City Globe Gazette. She will join The Gazette’s sport team on Jan. 11, covering Hawkeye football. (Chris Zoeller/Mason City Globe Gazette)

Say hello to Leah.

The last time I used this space to write about one of our staff members it was to say goodbye to Marc Morehouse. who spent more than 20 years covering University of Iowa football for The Gazette and thegazette.com.

It’s no secret Iowa athletics are important to our newspaper and website, especially Hawkeye football. So when we searched for someone to take on this important role, we wanted to get it right.

We think we did.

Leah Vann will join The Gazette sports team on Jan. 11, covering Iowa football, recruiting and the athletics department.

We had more than 100 apply for this position and Vann quickly rose to the top.

So say hello to Leah.

A native of Texas, Vann recently earned her Master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where she also was one of two students selected to cover the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo for Philadelphia Inquirer. She will get that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2021 — hopefully.

Vann impressed us with her passion, her knowledge and her plan to stand out from a crowded field of Iowa football media.

And, as former Chicago Tribune sportswriter and Northwestern instructor Melissa Isaacson said, “you’re not getting a college kid.”

Vann actually worked in sports journalism before going back to school to get her master’s degree. After graduating from the University of Texas — with a biology degree — she worked for the Mason City Globe Gazette, covering mostly high school sports. She then spent a year as sports editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today in Steamboat Springs. Colo., covering things like skiing and snowboarding and other “outdoor adventurers.”

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While it was at Texas Vann decided she wanted to be a journalist, it was in Colorado where she wanted to master her skills — pun intended — and decided to go back school.

“Ever since I was a little girl arguing with the boys at lunch about the BCS standings, I’ve wanted to work in football,” she tweeted last week after accepting the position, “Starting Jan. 11, I’ll be the HAWKEYE FOOTBALL BEAT WRITER for @CRGazetteSports!!!!!

“I’M COVERING BIG TEN FOOTBALL, Y’ALL!”

Kevin Robbins, a journalism teacher at Texas who once worked for the Burlington Hawk Eye, remembers the first time he met Vann. She approached him about taking his class and became the “only non-journalism major in the room.”

“I sensed an instant bond — the kind I, as a longtime newspaper reporter, feel with others who were born to do daily journalism,” he wrote in an unsolicited email. “Her commitment, energy and imagination were positively infectious ...

“She was relentless. She was determined. She worked hard, she worked late and she worked until it was right. Then she came to class the next time, ready to do it again.

“Leah is special, a rare talent.”

Isaacson, who was Vann’s adviser for her master’s project, had similar comments.

“She is absolutely unafraid to ask tough questions,” Isaacson said. “She’ll be excited, but never intimidated. There’s no fan to her, she’s just a pro.”

Vann’s master’s project, by the way, was a look at 30th anniversary of “Friday Night Lights,” the 1990 book, written by H.G. Bissinger, that followed the 1988 Permian High School football team from Odessa, Texas.

She “examined systematic racism in education, sports and town leadership of Odessa, Texas” in her project.

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“... She’s going to shake things up, I really think she will,” Isaacson said. “She’s ready to come in and do great stuff ...”

We think so, too.

Say hello to Leah.

Comments: (319) 398-8416; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.