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Coming home is sweet for media giant Cathy Hughes



 

Coming home is sweet for media giant Cathy Hughes

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in the June 2018 issue of The Reader (www.thereader.com)

Sweet nostalgia flowed when Omaha native media titan Cathy Hughes got feted in her hometown May 17-19. It marked the first time many Nebraskans heard of Hughes, even though this head of national networks cites her Midwest upbringing for the resilience behind her barrier-breaking entrepreneurial success.

After the hoopla around her coming back, she owns the state’s undivided attention.

The Omaha African-American community that produced Hughes has long followed her achievements. Her multimedia Urban One Inc., whose brands include Radio One and TV One, are black-centric platforms. Despite a media footprint rivaling Oprah and a personal net worth of half a billion dollars, her black market niche didn’t register with the general public. Until last month. Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Rodgers marshaled coverage for street renaming, Empowerment Network and Omaha Press Club recognitions.

Surrounded by friends, family and local black leaders, Hughes, the 71-year-old Urban One chair, and her son and business partner, CEO Alfred Liggins Jr., 53, basked in the glow of defining legacies. Liggins said admiringly of her: “She’s got guts, grit and she still has a ton of energy. She’s well-deserving of these honors.”

She recently produced her first movie, Media, for TV One.

Rodgers is among history-makers whose paths she’s intersected. She appreciates him making her mogul ascent more widely known so as to inspire others.

“Johnny told me, ‘I’m doing this for the black kids that need to know you exist – that you grew up in the projects in Omaha (to become the first black woman chair of a publicly traded company).’ Johnny added, ‘I’m also doing it for the white folks who don’t realize that in a whole different arena and way you’re our Warren Buffett.’ That kind of caused me to choke up.”

She came up in Logan-Fontenelle public housing when northeast Omaha truly was “a village.” Her accountant father and International Sweethearts of Rhythm musician mother were civil rights warriors (the De Porres Club). The former Cathy Woods attended Catholic schools. She demonstrated for equal rights. The bright Central High student was “the apple of many influential eyes.” When she became a teen single mom, she didn’t let that status or reality define her, but drive her.

Neither did she keep her radio fame ambitions to herself.

“Ever since I’ve been born, I’ve been running my mouth. I remember once almost getting suspended because I challenged a nun. She said, ‘You have a big mouth,’ and I said, ‘One day I’m going to make a lot of money off of my big mouth.’ I knew as a child I was a communicator. As I grew in my knowledge and awareness of my African history and legacy, I realized I was from the giro tradition of maintaining folklore and history in story form. I just innately had that ability.”

In 1972 she left for Washington D.C. to lecture at Howard University at the invite of noted broadcaster Tony Brown, whom she met in Omaha. It’s then-fledgling commercial radio station, WHUR, made her the city’s first woman general manager. She grew ad revenues and listeners. A program she created, “Quiet Storm,” popularized the urban format nationally. With ex-husband Dewey Hughes she worked wonders at WOL in D.C. After their split, she built Radio One.

“Omaha provided a safe haven, but once in Washington D.C. I had to rely on and call forth everything I had learned in Omaha in order just to survive and move forward. Folks in D.C. were like, ‘Oh yeah, another small town hick girl come to town to try to make a way for herself.’ It was an entirely different environment.”

Remarkable connections opened doors.

“I was prepared to recognize an opportunity and take full advantage of it. Howard University (whose School of Communication is named after her) literally groomed me. They were proud of the fact I was the first woman in the position they placed me in and they kept going with me because Katharine Graham (the late Washington Post publisher) was enthusiastic about me.”

She met Graham through the late Susan Thompson Buffett, the first wife of billionaire investor and then-major Post shareholder Warren Buffett.

“Susie was staying at her house. At that time Susie was a singer with professional entertainment aspirations and I was her manager.”

Hughes already knew Buffett from their shared social activism in Omaha.

“Katharine Graham took an interest in me. Because of her interest in me other people, including the folks at Howard University, embraced me. They saw potential in me. They paid for me to get training at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.”

The late publishing magnate John H. Johnson (Ebony, Jet magazines) became a friend, mentor and adviser.

She first got schooled in community-based black media by Omaha Star publisher Mildred Brown and columnist Charlie Washington. Her keen social consciousness got sharpened by Ernie Chambers, Rodney Wead and Al Goodwin. Thus, her guiding credo: “I’m unapologetically in the black people business.”

“In Omaha, we had black pride and black love and a militancy that was very unique. When you’re a child growing up in that you just assume you’re supposed to try to make life better for your people. That’s what was engrained in us. We didn’t have to wait to February for black history. We were told of great black accomplishments at church, in school, in social gatherings. I thank Omaha for instilling that in me.

“The combination of Charlie (Washington) always writing the truth and Mildred (Brown) keeping a newspaper solvent were both sides of my personality – the commitment side and the entrepreneurial side. Charlie taught me how to be proud of my blackness and Mildred taught me how not to compromise my blackness.”

Working at KOWH. the metro’s first black radio station, affirmed for her blacks could realize their media dreams.

Fulfilling her dreams necessitated leaving home.

“If I had not left Omaha I probably would not have become a successful entrepreneur because I had a certain comfort level here.”

Her career’s based on the proposition black media is the unfiltered voice of a people.

“It is impossible for a culture that enslaved you to accurately portray you. Our people are still under oppression and denied opportunities. We don’t need anybody to give us anything, just get the hell out of our way. All we want is self-determination.”

She advocates black consumers collectively focus their purchasing power in support of black businesses, thus creating greater opportunities for economic growth and job creation within black communities.

Her visit home sparked bittersweet nostalgia.

“Driving down North 24th Street was so disturbing to me,” she said of sparse business activity along this former Street of Dreams now undergoing revival efforts.

Fittingly for someone whose amplified voice reaches millions, the North Omaha Legends Award she received celebrates her work “”to empower individuals and communities through the power of information.”

She thanked those “who removed obstacles out of my path so I could be who God destined me to be” and  “Omaha’s tough love” for pushing her to excel.

“I haven’t done it on my own. Right time, right place, right people. Sometimes prepared, sometimes not. But the combination of it propelled me forward.”

She rejects the idea her recognition here was overdue.

“Everything in its proper time. I don’t think I’ve been overlooked or anything. Nothing’s better than your hometown saying job well done.”

Meanwhile, when she gets asked, “Are there black people in Omaha?” she’ll continue bragging on its notable black sons and daughters:

Bob Gibson

Malcolm X

Buddy Miles

Marlin Briscoe

John Beasley

Gabrielle Union

Monty Ross

Yolonda Ross

Kevyn Morrow

Q. Smith

“I want to help put Omaha in the right light. I am unapologetically Omaha until the day I die.”

Visit https://urban1.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at https://leoadambiga.com.

 

 

The Reader asked some African-American native Omaha media professionals what they find inspiring about Cathy Hughes:

ANGEL MARTIN

Freelance journalist

“Just to see where she started from in her career with a small studio in D.C. to large media owner. She was determined to never give up no matter what challenges she had to face. Very inspiring for a freelance journalist and radio host-producer at Mind and Soul/Malcolm X Radio like me. She also comes from very humble beginnings right in the Omaha metro. A very positive example of what can happen when you keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak.

“With her being a double minority -– this is a great example of how one should not only play with the ‘good ol’ boys’ but rather change the rules and win. When you think of radio and media ownership, Oprah’s name comes to mind and when you do your research you’ll soon realize Ms. Hughes is right up there, in fact she’s the number two based on her net worth.”

_ _ _

MONIQUE FARMER

Omaha Public Schools communications director

“Her accomplishments are truly inspirational, particularly for African-American women in the fields of journalism, communication, entertainment and entrepreneurship. She’s been breaking glass ceilings for decades and she continues to prove that some barriers are merely mental. She’s also proven that hard work, drive, discipline and possessing the boldness necessary to reach for one’s goals can account for so much. She makes us native Omahans all proud to be from the city we call home.”

_ _ _

WILLIAM KING

Founder, 1690-AM The One and 95.7-FM The Boss

“It’s inspiring because I’m currently walking in her footsteps with the creation of radio stations. I’m following every lesson from the matriarch of radio and TV.

“She’s an example that greatness come from the North Omaha community. It gives one the belief that if she can do it so can I. It’s motivation that drives you to succeed.

I recently talked to her and our conversation focused on both of us telling our stories on how we struggled and sacrificed to build our radio stations.”

_ _ _

MICHELLE TROXCLAIR

Mind and Soul radio host

“A black woman having achieved the success she has is an inspiration and motivator to all black women. Her accomplishments have transcended the barriers of race and gender. She has laid an important path.”

_ _ _

CARINA GLOVER

Founder, Ace Empire Media

“Cathy Hughes has raised the bar in the media industry and is inspirational as a black woman, professional,and business woman. As a young woman from Omaha on the path to building my own empire in media and tech, Cathy Hughes is a major inspiration. On a national scale, there’s a false perception that the roots of successful media companies generate from the west and wast coasts. Cathy demonstrates the barriers that can broken and how there’s no limit to success, despite where you began your journey.”

_ _ _

CHANELLE ELAINE

New York-based film producer (First Match

“What i find inspiring is Ms. Hughes’ willingness to take chances, to go against expectations and push forward by her own definition of what a young African-American woman can do. She refuses to be put in a box by gender, color or origin, giving us all equity in the landscape of opportunity.”

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Omaha Press Club to salute media mogul Cathy Hughes


Omaha Press Club to salute media mogul Cathy Hughes

©by Leo Adam Biga

 

Nebraskans are about to get an education about one of their own they should know more about and embrace as one of the state’s greatest ever exports but very few outside of Omaha’s African-American community do. This exemplary product is Omaha native Cathy Hughes, founder and owner of two major media networks, Radio One and TV One, that she grew into African-American market empires. Hers is an entrepreneurial success story unlike few others and one that transcends color and gender. Think Oprah Winfrey but only more niche and you have an idea of just how big a deal she is and just what a footprint she has in a segment of the national media marketplace. Her personal net worth is estimated at half a billion dollars. Get the picture? She’s about to come on your radar in a big way, perhaps for the first time, because of a series of events feting and featuring her in her hometown the week of May 14-20.

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of her before or why there haven’t been things named after her before, it may say something about how this predominantly white state has not exactly gone out of its way to recognize her or any other woman of color. As a whole, Omaha’s been guilty of the same, The festivities being planned around her are largely the effort of the African-American community here, though a broad spectrum of city officials and movers and shakers will be present for the street renaming ceremony and the Omaha Press Club Face on the Barroom Floor roast in her honor (see about the Press Club event by clicking below). Her omission, until now, as a generally known and acknowledged Nebraska Great is all the more vexing because she got her media start in Omaha, counted as her mentor Omaha Star publisher Mildred Brown and has retained very close ties to the city and the black community. She has also been very generous with her time with this reporter and others from here and with other members of the community here. I will be doing a whole new round of writing about Cathy and her business and life journey in the coming months.

Oh, by the way, her mother Helen Jones Woods is a great story in herself as a member of the famed International Sweethearts of Rhythm during the big band swing era.

For those of you playing catch-up when it comes to Cathy Hughes, here are links to some stories I have done about her or that have extensively quoted her:

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/29/radio-one-queen-…-keeping-it-real

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/04/11/the-omaha-star-c…ack-woman-legacy

https://leoadambiga.com/2017/08/11/native-omaha-day…ng-like-no-other

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/12/04/news-of-omaha-st…ic-papers-future/

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/07/04/native-omahans-t…n-their-hometown

Here’s a link to my story about Cathy’s mother, Helen Jones Woods, and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm:

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/29/17/

 

The Omaha Press Club
Celebrates Its 157th
Face on the Barroom Floor 


 
Cathy Hughes

Friday, May 18, 2018

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Cocktail Reception

6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Dinner

Hors d’oeuvres
Potato Leek Smoked Salmon with Goat Cheese and Bacon
Parmesan Onion Canapé
Salad

OPC’s Signature Thunderbird Salad

Entrée
OPC Tenderloin Filet Maytag Bleu and Béarnaise
Gouda & Roasted Twice-Baked Potato
Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
Dessert
OPC’s Signature Bavarian Chocolate Mousse Gateau Riche
7:30 p.m.

The Roast featuring:

Roasters
Johnny Rodgers, 1972 Heisman Trophy winner,
founder/CEO, Johnny Rodgers Youth Foundation
and Face on the Barroom Floor (No. 102, July 2005) — emcee
Theresa Glass Union, AT&T, Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services (retired)
Elmer J. Crumbley, educational consultant/Minnesota Humanities Center, educator, Omaha Public Schools,
former principal, Skinner Magnet School (retired)
Dr. Blandina Rose Willis, educator/psychologist,
president, Humanistic Solutions, LLC
Al Goodwin, economic development director, Omaha Economic Development Corp. (retired)
Face Reveal

Artist Jim Horan

Dinner: $50 for Omaha Press Club members;

$60 for nonmembers

To RSVP for dinner:
Call the Omaha Press Club at 402-345-8008,

Email


(If you have special dietary needs, please notify the Omaha Press Club
when you make your reservation.)
Reservations must be accompanied by OPC member number or credit card.

Cancellations require a 48-hour notice.

Omaha Press Club
First National Center, 22nd Floor (adjoining the DoubleTree Hotel)
1620 Dodge Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68102-1593
Twitter: @omahapressclub
Parking Available in the Central City Parking Garage
(the garage just west of the First National Bank Building)

 

Free parking for OPC members in the Central City Garage from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.;

discounted parking available for nonmembers with ticket validation.
Bring your Central City Garage ticket with you to the club.
(No validated parking available in the garage attached
to the DoubleTree Hotel; however, self-pay parking is available)

 

KM3 reporter Maya Saenz living her dream


KM3 reporter Maya Saenz living her dream

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally appeared in El Perico (el-perico.com)

KMTV Channel 3 news reporter Maya Saenz is living a dream that started as a girl in rural Colorado watching Telemundo Denver and KUSA NBC Channel 9.

Saenz ended up working at both stations before joining KM3 in 2016.

This youngest of three sisters is the only one not born in Chihuahua, Mexico, where the girls made tradition-rich  summer immersions.

Spurred by her immigrant parents’ (her father’s an entrepreneur and her mother’s a teacher) emphasis on education, Maya and her older sisters, Dulce and Nora, graduated from the University of Denver to pursue professional careers.

The family endured a life-changing event when Maya’s undocumented father got deported when she was 12. They moved to El Paso-Juarez to be near the border.

Saenz said, “We had a place in El Paso, but we spent 80 percent of the time in Juarez (on the Mexican side). I crossed the border every single day to go to school in the U.S. because I was too Americanized to go to Mexican schools.”

“My mother was too Americanized to teach in Mexico.”

Saenz didn’t let her unsettled status limit her from student activities.

“As inconvenient as this border barrier was I still had to prepare myself for college.”

When the move first occurred, she said, “I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to us. Looking back, i think it’s one of the best things. Our parents didn’t want us to lose those Mexican values. They wanted us to see them daily and the life we could have had had we stayed in Mexico.”

Having a father barred from the U.S. personally informs the immigration separation stories she covers today.

“l’ve lived it. I feel I can definitely relate when I interview people. That experience made me understanding of situations and circumstances that people from all paths of life face. It made me conscious that we have no idea what people are going through at home.”

Her father’s “restarted life in Mexico,” where he has his own business.

“It’s definitely been hard not having him here. You want your parents there for everything you accomplish.”

The Saenzes do stay connected.

“We’re a very close family. We’re on group text every day. I call my parents every single night on my way home from work. My father knows my day to day life, he knows what stories I do, he’s able to watch me on the evening news. He knows what makes me happy. Just the other day, he texted me, my sisters and my mom, saying, ‘I love you all and I live proudly for you four.'”

She finds relief talking to family after filing emotionally wrenching stories in which someone’s lost a loved one.

“You don’t want to go home and stay in that state of mind. Communicating with family helps to kind of shake it off.”

Though she’s clearly found her calling, in college Saenz needed assurance TV was the right path.

“I knew I had the desire and the drive,” she said, “but I didn’t know realistically if a young Mexican-American girl was going to be able to make it. I had this professor, Laressa Watlington, who had been an anchor for Univision. I grabbed onto her and bugged her about how do I get this and how do I do that. She opened doors for me.

“We actually ended up working together at Telemundo Denver after I graduated. I’m still very close with her.  She’s definitely a mentor in my life.”

The University of Denver made sense since her sisters preceded her there.

“Being Mexican-American, family is everything. Having to move away from my parents in El Paso, it was very important I be surrounded by my sisters during this culture shock experience. Having my sisters there really helped me get assimilated. I really needed that family support, leadership and guidance.”

Internships and jobs prepared her for her fast-track rise.

“I knew I just had to hustle and graduate and become successful like my sisters did.”

Moving forward, she said, “I definitely want to stay in news and to tell people’s stories. I just hope my platform gets bigger.”

Her career began in Spanish-language television. She set her sights on the English-speaking market in order to present Hispanic stories not being told there.

Upon finding she was “the only brown person in the newsroom” at KM3, she said, “I was like, wow. what a scary challenge but also what a great opportunity.”

She doesn’t like being the obligatory brown girl striking a blow for inclusivisty.

“Sometimes people don’t even pay attention to what you’re saying or the story – they just see you.”

On the other hand, her skin color and Spanish fluency allow her to get stories others can’t.

“I’m able to talk to people who may even know English but don’t trust other reporters. They trust me because of my background. As much as I’d like people to recognize me just for my work, I own being the Hispanic reporter.”

“Coming to Nebraska, I did not honestly think I was going to cover as many Latinos as I have. I feel like I’ve contributed to covering positive stories from the Hispanic community to where they feel they have someone they can count on.”

Her community outreach sees her emcee Latino Center of the Midlands, Women on a Mission for Change and Cinco de Mayo events, among others.

She knows young Latinos watch her with admiration the same way she did her TV news idols.

“I’m very conscious of the role I’m playing. In public, I make a point talking to Latino youth to them know, yeah, I’m a Latino reporting the news, and you can, too.”

Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/MayaSaenzNew.

Life Itself III: Twenty-plus years of New Horizons stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions

April 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Life Itself III: Twenty-plus years of New Horizons stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions

©by Leo Adam Biga

Author-Journalist-Blogger

John Knicely

A Broadcast Journalism Career Five Decades Strong

https://leoadambiga.com/2018/02/26/john-knicely-a-l…e-decades-strong/

Charlene Butts Ligon

Her Mother’s Daughter

https://leoadambiga.com/2018/01/28/her-mothers-daug…lyn-thomas-butts

Dundee Theater

Cinema Revival for the Ages

https://leoadambiga.com/2017/10/28/dundee-theater-r…ent-for-the-ages/

Syed Mohiuddin

A Tri-Faith Pillar

https://leoadambiga.com/2017/09/01/syed-mohiuddin-a…tiative-in-omaha/

Brenda Council

A Public Servant’s Life

https://leoadambiga.com/2017/06/26/brenda-council-a…ic-servants-life

Bud Shaw

Voyager

https://leoadambiga.com/2017/04/20/voyager-bud-shaw…-scalpel-for-pen/

Tom Gouttierre

An American’s Afghanistan Odyssey

https://leoadambiga.com/2017/02/21/love-affair-with…-like-few-others/

Camille Metoyer Moten

Songstress

https://leoadambiga.com/2016/12/26/camille-metoyer-…ong-in-her-heart/

Tom Osborne

Still Going Strong

https://leoadambiga.com/2016/10/27/living-legend-to…me-of-life-at-79/ 

Ron Hansen

Literary Star Revisits the Old West

https://leoadambiga.com/2016/08/25/literary-star-ro…ew-novel-the-kid/

Paul Johnsgard

Birdman

https://leoadambiga.com/2016/06/24/paul-johnsgard-a…ad-less-traveled/

John Beasley

Living His Dream

https://leoadambiga.com/2016/04/22/john-beasley-living-his-dream/

Lew Hunter

Hollywood Success Story

https://leoadambiga.com/2016/02/25/lew-hunters-smal…story-is-a-doozy/

Bob and Connie Spittler

Creative Couple

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/12/23/bob-and-connie-s…rs-in-the-making/

Father Ken Vavrina

Crossing Bridges

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/10/29/father-ken-vavri…e-serving-others/

Carol Rogers

Singer’s Life Comes Full Circle

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/08/28/life-comes-full-…ger-carol-rogers

David Corbin and Josie Metal-Corbin

Moving Right Along

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/07/03/moving-right-alo…wn-in-retirement/

Paul Williams

Still Alive and Making Music

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/05/01/paul-williams-al…usic-again-at-74

Sam Walker

Social Justice Warrior

https://leoadambiga.com/2014/05/30/justice-champion…it-as-he-sees-it/

Tom Mangelsen

Natural Imagery

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/01/30/natural-imagery-…-comes-back-home/

Gene Hayes

North’s Star

https://leoadambiga.com/2014/12/02/norths-star-gene…orth-high-school/

Vic Gutman and Roberta Wilhelm

A Community-Engaged Couple

https://leoadambiga.com/2014/09/29/alone-or-togethe…to-the-community/

Linda Meigs

The Artist in the Mill

https://leoadambiga.com/2014/08/01/linda-meigs-brin…at-florence-mill/ 

Jim Trebbien

Culinary Artist

https://leoadambiga.com/2015/03/02/culinary-artist-…ommunity-college/

Michael Kelly

Decades of Deadlines

https://leoadambiga.com/2014/04/02/omaha-world-hera…-for-all-seasons/

John and Liz Backus

Upon this Rock, Husband and Wife Pastor Team Shepherds North Omaha Flock

https://leoadambiga.com/2014/02/02/upon-this-rock-h…trinity-lutheran/

Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska”

Movie Laden with Senior Themes and Cast

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/11/30/alexander-paynes…ith-many-viewers

Minne Lusa House

Coffee and Community

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/09/27/minne-lusa-house…on-and-community/

Terrence Crawford and Midge Minor

In Each Other’s Corner

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/07/30/in-his-corner-mi…nce-bud-crawford/

Brenda Allen

Country Western Saga – Nebraska to Vietnam to Vegas

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/06/01/brenda-allens-re…vietnam-to-vegas/ 

Eileen Wirth

Female Journalist Recounts Nebraska Women in Journalism

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/03/22/ex-reporter-eile…ge-to-front-page/

Shirley Jones

Star Recalls “Carousel”

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/05/01/shirley-jones-in…ning-of-carousel/

Susie Baer Collins and Carl Beck

Matched Set Exiting Stage Left

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/02/28/matched-set-susa…munity-playhouse/

Bob Hoig

Newsman, Publisher, Flyer

https://leoadambiga.com/2013/01/25/bob-hoigs-uninte…cades-strong-now/

Theresa Glass Union

Parenting the Second Time Around

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/11/25/parenting-the-se…uts-family-first/

Jose and Linda Garcia

Building Community Through Art

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/09/30/community-builde…-culture-history/

Ben and Freddie Gray

North Omaha Power Couple

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/07/13/gray-matters-ben…hways-to-success/

Bill Cosby

On His Own Terms

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/05/11/bill-cosby-on-his-own-terms/

Linda Lovgren

PR Pioneer

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/03/26/linda-lovgrens-s…f-fame-induction/

Mary Mitchell

Timeless Fashion

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/01/07/timeless-fashion…k-and-exhibition

Nancy Kirk

Fabric and Faith

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/10/21/nancy-kirk-arts-…erfaith-champion/

Howard Silber

Globe-trotter

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/10/06/retired-omaha-wo…nt-globe-trotter/

Mike Denney

Requiem for a Wrestling Dynasty

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/07/28/requiem-for-a-dy…ville-university/

Anne Marie Kenney

Life is a Cabaret

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/05/28/life-is-a-cabare…-omaha-with-love/

Harvey Perlman

University Leader

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/04/02/chancellor-harve…s-in-the-big-ten

Dean Blais

Coach has UNO Hockey Dreaming Big

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/01/29/dean-blais-has-u…key-dreaming-big

Lucile Schaaf

An Old Market Original

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/11/28/luciles-old-market/

Debbie Reynolds

Hollywood Legend Remembers “Singin’ in the Rain”

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/10/31/hollywood-legend…d-at-nov-5-event

Gary Kastrick

South Omaha History Man

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/10/03/gary-kastricks-p…es-its-home-base

Patrick Drickey

Golf Shots

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/05/golf-shots-pat-d…eat-golf-courses/

Dick Holland

Giving to those in Need

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/06/04/dick-holland-res…g-needs-in-omaha/

William Kloefkorn

Man of His Words

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/07/a-man-of-his-wor…illiam-kloefkorn/

Teela Mickles

Nurturing One Lost Soul at a Time

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/06/29/nurturing-one-lo…-back-to-society/

Jim Suttle

Omaha Mayor

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/04/jim-suttle-feels…as-omaha’s-mayor/

Click Westin 

Back in the Screenwriting Game

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/click-westin-bac…-again-at-age-83/

Bill Sprague and Marcia Hinkle

50 Years Making Music with the Omaha Symphony

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/03/marcia-hinkle-an…iversary-players/

John Sorensen

Rediscovering the Abbott Sisters

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/26/10/

Connie Spellman

Designing Woman

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/12/13/designing-woman-…-omaha-by-design

Mike Saklar

Whatsoever You Do to the Least of My Brothers

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/01/whatsoever-you-d…t-you-do-unto-me/

Lela Knox Shanks

Activist-Advocate

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/04/one-day-at-a-tim…alcoholics-story/

Isabella Threlkeld

Art for Life

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/04/isabella-threlke…an-uncommon-life

Jim Ramirez

South Omaha Champion

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/01/jim-ramirez-a-man-of-the-people/

Michael Voorhies

Bone Hunter

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/02/the-bone-hunter/

Catherine Ferguson

Artist Stretches Herself

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/01/artist-catherine…-aida-and-beyond/

Mike Green and Dick Davis

Lifetime Friends, Former Backfield Mates, Now Entrepreneurs

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/08/20/lifetime-friends…-black-citizenry/

Ron Hull

A Magical Journey in Public Television

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/ron-hull’s-magic…ublic-television/

Ron Stander

Still Fighting for Friends in Need

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/05/31/ron-stander-stil…-friends-in-need/ß

Ben Kuroki

Most Honorable Son

https://leoadambiga.com/2018/03/17/ben-kuroki-a-dis…st-honorable-man/

Jo Ann McDowell

Love of Theater Leads to Major Conference

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/05/24/jo-ann-mcdowells…ls-and-conferenc/

Dick Cavett

Homecoming is Sweet for Nebraska Legend

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/12/04/homecoming-is-al…ed-in-nebraska-2/

Black Women in Music

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/black-women-in-music/

George Pfeifer and Tom Krehbiel

A Good Deal at Boys Town

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/05/31/a-good-deal-geor…-boys-town-hoops/

Buck O’Neil

Negro Leagues Icon

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/08/27/buck-o’neil-and-…lack-perspective

Roger Welsch

Author-Folklorist Mines the American Soul

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/19/author-humorist-…he-american-soul/

Marguerita Washington

Guiding an Omaha Star that Never Sets

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/02/marguerita-washi…-that-never-sets/

Ted Kooser

Keeper of the Flame

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/19/keeper-of-the-fl…inner-ted-kooser/

Everett Reynolds

Civil Rights Champion

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/06/05/rev-everett-reyn…ctivist-preacher/

Edith Buis

A Life Immersed in Art

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/06/11/eddith-buis-a-life-immersed-in-art

Tuskegee Airmen of Omaha

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/18/the-tuskegee-airmen/

Nancy Bounds

Omaha Arbiter of Poise, Beauty, Grace

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/02/04/nancy-bounds-a-t…ty-glamour-poise

John and Pegge Hlavacek

A Couple’s Foreign Correspondent Adventures

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/02/john-and-pegge-h…n-correspondents/

Harley Cooper 

The Best Boxer You’ve Never Heard Of

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/05/harley-cooper-th…e-never-heard-of/

Dick Boyd

Scrooged

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/12/24/dick-boyd-found-…-christmas-carol/ 

Blacks of Distinction II

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/04/01/blacks-of-distinction-ii/

Elaine Jabenis

Theater-Fashion Maven

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/04/theater-fashion-…n-elaine-jabenis/

Senior Men of Medicine 

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/02/men-of-science/

Don Benning

Man of Steel

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/17/don-benning-man-…ots-of-greatness/

“West Side Story”

American Movie Musical Classic

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/08/15/west-side-story-…american-classic/

A Family’s Odyssey with Alzhemier’s 

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/ill-be-seeing-yo…alzheimers-story/ 

Evie Zysman

A Force of Nature

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/16/a-force-of-natur…e-advocate-at-99/

Carole Woods Harris

Breaking Barriers

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/04/17/carole-woods-har…ess-and-politics/

Mary Galligan-Cornett

One Helluva Broad

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/06/09/one-helluva-broa…galligan-cornett/

Peace Corps Veterans

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/18/a-peace-corps-retrospective/

Saturday Night Bingo Brigade

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/the-saturday-night-bingo-brigade/

Ritz Cab Company Remembered 

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/18/puttin-on-the-ritz/ 

Ballroom Dancing

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/12/10/gotta-dance-seni…of-staying-young/

Joan Micklin Silver

Filmmaker Paved Path for Women Directors

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/10/10/joan-micklin-sil…-women-directors

Blacks of Distinction I

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/blacks-of-distinction/

John H

Finding Recovery in AA

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/04/one-day-at-a-tim…alcoholics-story

Bill Ramsey

A Korean War Story

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/26/a-korean-war-story-2/

Nancy Duncan

Storyteller

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/02/nancy-duncan-storyteller/

Omaha Community Playhouse at 75

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/04/the-show-goes-on

Charles Bryant

Man on Fire, Soul on Ice

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/12/09/soul-on-ice-man-…ots-of-greatness/

Charles Jones

Looking Homeward

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/03/looking-homeward/

Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/contemplative-compassion/

Tom Lovgren

A Good Man to Have in Your Corner

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/03/tom-lovgren-a-go…e-in-your-corner/

Chuck Powell

A Berlin Airlift Story

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/18/a-berlin-airlift-story/

Florence Young

Enchanted Life of this Daughter of a Whirling Dervish

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/12/10/the-enchanted-li…whirling-dervish/

Warren Francke

Reporter-turned-educator

https://leoadambiga.com/2012/06/11/from-the-archive…eaching-and-life/  

Bea Karp

Holocaust Survivor

https://leoadambiga.com/2018/03/15/bea-karp-holocau…painful-memories/

Omaha Stockyards

Last Days and Halcyon Times Remembered

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/02/the-last-days-an…yards-remembered

Donovan Ketzler

Last of the Rough Riders

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/18/last-of-the-rough-riders/

Bob and Roberta Rogers

Art Missionaries at Gallery 72

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/19/art-missionaries/

Omaha’s Sweet 16

WWII Service in the All-Black Quarternaster Corps

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/30/omahas-sweet-six…master-battalion/

Magnificent Obsession of Art Storz

The Old Man and the Mansion

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/15/the-magnificent-…-and-the-mansion/

Bob Gibson

Master of the Mound

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/18/bob-gibson-the-m…from-the-diamond/

Preston Love Sr.

Bittersweet Jazz Stylings of Mr. Saturday Night

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/06/03/mr-saturday-night

Kenny Wingo and Dutch Gladfelter

Heart and Soul of the Downtown Boxing Club

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/06/24/heart-and-soul-k…town-boxing-club/

Patricia Neal

Unforgettable Actress

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/09/06/unforgettable-patricia-neal/

Bob Boozer

Basketball Immortal

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/14/bob-boozer-basketball-immortal/

Myers Family Funeral Home Legacy

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/11/the-myers-legacy…ng-and-community/

Maude Wangberg

Easter Sunday Tornado Survivor Performed in Vaudeville

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/08/02/in-her-101-years…hirl-of-splendor/

When Boys Town Became the Center of the Film World

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/05/31/when-boys-town-b…f-the-film-world/

Fight Doctor Jack Lewis

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/08/20/omahas-fight-doc…al-golden-gloves/

King Kong 

Bringing Back the Old Ballyhoo with Classic Film Revival

https://leoadambiga.com/2011/12/03/bringing-back-cl…carpet-treatment

Helen Jones Woods

Swinging with International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Now Wasn’t That a Time?

https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/29/17

 

Life Itself II: Eight years of Reader stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions

April 19, 2018 Leave a comment

Life Itself II: Eight years of Reader stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions

©by Leo Adam Biga

Author-Journalist-Blogger

 

Dec 5, 2017
Dec 4, 2017
Nov 2, 2017
Oct 9, 2017 5:00 PM
Oct 10, 2017
Oct 9, 2017
Sep 13, 2017

Photo courtesy of OPS

Sep 11, 2017
Aug 8, 2017

Terry Sanders_Posing at the entrance of the Fair Deal Grocery_Photo by Kevin Lytle

Food insecurity in northeast Omaha is a question of access, education and poverty. more
Jul 7, 2017
Jul 5, 2017
“I’ve been in a hundred struggles in my life, lost almost all of ’em, but I was never afraid, and that’s what I want people to understand.” more
Jun 2, 2017
May 31, 2017
A new approach to addressing community needs is taking root as the public sector stumbles. more
May 16, 2017
May 10, 2017
Payne’s ‘Downsizing’ may be next big thing on world cinema landscape more
Apr 27, 2017
With the end of Obamacare at the top of the national conversation, The Reader talked to the major stakeholders about life before and potentially after the Affordable Care Act. more
Mar 14, 2017 1

Debra Kaplan

Some 700,000 young Americans, including 3,000-plus in Nebraska, enjoy protections under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, but under Trump the work permits and other benefits could end. A diverse coalition supports their retainment. more
Feb 7, 2017

Lectrr

America’s welcomed newcomers escaping dangers and threats for as long as it’s been a nation. Refugees and asylees continue coming and a broad array of community support coalesces to make their resettlement and ultimate self-sufficiency a reality. more
Feb 1, 2017
Dec 7, 2016
Breaking the cycle of poverty in Omaha more
Dec 7, 2016

Debra S Kaplan

Don Curry banks on his “healthy” version of soul food catching on at his niche Omaha Rockets Kanteen and Southern Pitch food truck. His niche concept is wed to a Negro Leagues baseball passion that permeates his brick and mortar and mobile eateries. more
Nov 2, 2016
Exploring interfaith realities isn’t always the provence of groups or unrelated individuals. Interfaith couples such as Sharif Liwaru, who is Muslim, and Gabrielle Gaines Liwari, who is a follower of Jeuss, must find ways to navigate their journey. more
Nov 2, 2016
A force of nature named Dick Holland died at 95 on August 9. The philanthropist’s passing triggered warm, appreciative tributes from leaders of organizations he supported as well as individuals who worked with him or just admired his frank… more
Aug 18, 2016
Borne from outrage over violent African-American deaths, the grassroots Black Lives Matter movement espouses a social action platform to end systemic violence against and mass incarceration of a people. BLM’s loose-knit activists advocate d… more
Aug 11, 2016
When family owners of the Bohemian Cafe announced in May the restaurant was for sale and would close September 24, it marked another casualty among classic eateries calling it quits. An eventual surge in customers wanting to indulge Czech-G… more
Aug 11, 2016
If there is an Omaha Cinema Culture, it cuts across consumer, exhibitor, artist and aspirational experiences. Being far from traditional film centers poses certain barriers, but rich offerings and showplaces exist. Natives pursue and some a… more
Jul 15, 2016
The private doodles Ciara Fortun used to make have evolved into working sketches for collections she now produces for Omaha Fashion Week shows. After debuting at OFW with a formal women’s wear show in March, she’s unveiling a new collectio… more
Jul 11, 2016 5:48 PM Leo Adam Biga Art
Summer Miller’s New Prairie Kitchen Finding Meaning at the Table by Leo A, Biga Omaha author Summer Miller came to write her Gourmand World Cookbook Awards finalist New Prairie Kitchen in the midst of a life reset.  More than a recipe b… more
Jun 22, 2016
A poor inner city North Omaha neighborhood recently gained a $15 million new investment in its at-risk youth. The Girls Inc. of Omaha center at 2811 North 45th Street long ago outgrew its digs in the former Clifton Hill Elementary School b… more
May 19, 2016
When Mondo we Langa died at age 68 in the Nebraska State Penitentiary last month, he’d served 45 years for a crime he always maintained he did not commit. The former David Rice, a poet and artist, was found guilty, along with fellow Black P… more
Apr 25, 2016
As North Omaha Neighborhood Tapestries returns for the Great Plains Theatre Conference’s free PlayFest bill, two community icons take center stage as subject and setting. En route to making her Omaha Star newspaper an institution in the Af… more
Apr 15, 2016
Omaha native Ann Schatz swears she never meant to be a pioneer. She became one as her hometown’s first female sportscaster in the late 1970s, repeating the feat in Portland, Oregon in 1989. From that Pacific Northwest base she’s traveled to… more
Mar 16, 2016
The high concept behind Alexander Payne’s soon to shoot new feature, Downsizing, unfolds in a near future world where humans can opt to be miniaturized. Everything about the story, from the title to the characters to the plot-lines, gives P… more
Mar 4, 2016
It used to be conversations about local filmmakers doing relevant work here began and ended with Alexander Payne and Nik Fackler. That’s changing now and the March 8-13 Omaha Film Festival (OFF) is evidence of it. The 11-year-old fest, bac… more
Mar 4, 2016
Omaha is the adopted home of veteran Hollywood screenwriter and literary novelist John Kaye, 74, whose memoirs are published by the Los Angeles Review of Books.  The mercurial Kaye came 17-months ago from northern California to work on a n… more
Jan 22, 2016
Last August Stuart Chittenden traversed Neb. to test drive the idea that interpersonal communication is intrinsic to building community.  He called the project “A Couple of 830 Mile Long Conversations.” With support from Humanities Nebrask… more
Jan 12, 2016
Omaha’s philanthropic community is known for its unusual generosity. Some attribute this largess to the small town feel of a city where relationships still matter and where it’s possible to rally people around a good idea or cause. Others … more
Nov 24, 2015
Omaha’s philanthropic heavyweights are generally male, old-monied Great White Fathers whose wealth and influence support health, human services, education and the arts. A veteran of this deep-pocketed fraternity is Richard D. Holland. The … more
Nov 24, 2015
The Omaha Star has given African-Americans a voice for 77 years. The newspaper is not only a vital mouthpiece for locals, but a valued hometown connection for natives living elsewhere.  It became an institution under the late Mildred D. Br… more
Nov 24, 2015
The Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol has long haunted actor-writer-director John Hardy. Though ghosts have yet to visit him ala Scrooge, the story’s held an enchanted place in Hardy’s heart ever since he got his Equity card acting … more
Nov 10, 2015
With America in the throes of the 1960s civil rights movement, few whites publicly conceded their own prejudice, much less tried seeing things from a black point of view. Lois Mark Stalvey was that exception as she shared her journey from n… more
Nov 9, 2015
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid   Of people whose eyes are oddly made,  … more
Nov 9, 2015
Muddying Omaha’s high quality of life rankings are pockets of chronic poverty and growing new poor populations. Identifiable impoverished sections, homeless communities and shelters exist, but most poverty here is insidious and invisible. … more
Oct 16, 2015
The 2015 downtown Omaha Lit Fest, whose theme is “Nervosa: Science, Psych & Story,” celebrates the reflective power of literature to explore human vulnerability. Worry over terrorism, the economy, climate change, the singularity, genet… more
Sep 19, 2015
Since Sam Meisels arrived in 2013 to head the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, he’s become the academic-based advocate ally to the socially conscious philanthropist who hired him, Susan A. Buffett. The dynastic wealth of the Buffetts has… more
Sep 19, 2015
Until now the Blue Barn Theatre has been like Omaha’s many other small stage companies by operating on a shoestring in makeshift spaces. This grassroots passion project was born of a band of New York drama school transplants afire with the … more
Sep 8, 2015
If you’re an Omaha foodie who believes as many do the local dining out experience has never been better, then you can thank an infusion of original chef-driven and chef-owned eateries for it.   Not coincidentally, many of these places are… more
Sep 4, 2015
Quality-of-life metrics assessing the state of African-American northeast Omaha paint a stark picture. Pockets experience some of America’s worst poverty and gun violence. Disparities contradict Omaha’s high best-place-to-live rankings. Ri… more
Jul 23, 2015
EDITOR’S NOTE:  Senior contributing writer Leo Adam Biga, winner of the 2015 Andy Award for international journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, chronicles recent travels he made in Africa with two-time world boxing champion … more
Jun 27, 2015
Last month State Sen. Ernie Chambers finally got enough fellow legislators to support repealing the death penalty in Nebraska. Capital punishment foes welcome the news, among them Omaha filmmaker Patty Dillon. Her new documentary There Will… more
May 27, 2015
NorthStar Foundation nurtures the dreams of young inner city males. The area’s lone boys-only after school program and summer camp at 4242 North 49th Avenue doesn’t put limits on students, regardless of socio-economic, family or environmen… more
May 18, 2015
Perhaps more than any geographic quadrant of the city, South Omaha owns the richest legacy as a livestock-meatpacking industry hub and historic home to new arrivals fixated on the American Dream. Everyone with South O ties has a story. Whe… more
Apr 16, 2015
Social justice champion Tommie Wilson experienced the civil rights movement as it happened. For her, the good fight has never stopped. While president of the local NAACP she brought a lawsuit against then-Gov. Dave Heineman over redistrict… more
Apr 16, 2015
The 1959 gender-bending film farce Some Like It Hot came at an interesting juncture in the careers of writer-director Billy Wilder and stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe.  For each legend it marked a career boost. It reaffir… more
Mar 20, 2015
R&B and soul singer-songwriter Dominique Morgan, 33, has emerged as an urban music force with multiple Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards nominations for his Love Chronicles album. His tunes of love and loss come from personal experie… more
Mar 20, 2015
Three-time Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards poet nominee Zedeka Poindexter envies the performing outlets high school-age poets have today. The March 17-April 20 Louder Than a Bomb is a case in point. There wasn’t anything like it when sh… more
Mar 10, 2015
The metro’s work-in-progress cinema culture has lately come of age due to a montage of things. Alexander Payne making movies and bringing world-class film artists here. A surge of indigenous indie filmmakers. The advent of Film Streams. The… more
Mar 10, 2015
Since launching hockey in 1997 to subsidize its non-revenue generating sports UNO’s netted a nice return on investment. Maverick hockey crowds rank among the best nationally, with annual ticket revenues of $2 million. When the school droppe… more
Feb 20, 2015
South Omaha native Frank Horejsi doesn’t care if he’s called caretaker, curator, historian, picker, salvager, architectural remnants archeologist or his favorite, urban miner.  Just don’t call him late to a salvage site.  For 30-some year… more
Feb 20, 2015
As an adoptee whose identity quest has shaped his life and as a research specialist investigating people’s family trees, Max Sparber perfectly embodies his “history detective” tagline. His Douglas Country Historical Society fact-finding du… more
Feb 15, 2015
America’s schizophrenic about sex. Images and hookups abound, yet in this information age many folks don’t know, follow or discuss safe practices. That incongruity explains why sexually transmitted diseases are at epidemic levels and why … more
Jan 22, 2015
My, how time flies. It seems only yesterday Omaha’s own Gabrielle Monique Union first caught our attention on the big screen with her scene-stealing turn as the diva rival to Kirsten Dunst in the wickedly funny high school cheerleader comed… more
Dec 5, 2014
Art often expresses culturally-specific stories but until the Omaha-based African Culture Connection surfaced in 2006 West African tales were rarely if ever explored here.  Led by Benin, West Africa native and veteran dancer-choreographer … more
Nov 20, 2014
Former Bellevue West hoops star and Creighton University point guard Josh Dotzler has lived through the saga of Abide, the northeast Omaha ministry his parents started in 1989. Twenty-five years ago Ron and Twany Dotzler stepped out on fai… more
Nov 19, 2014
Alexander Payne is in a position to ask any world class film figure to be his guest of honor at the Film Streams Feature event, the art cinema’s annual big fundraiser. Laura Dern, Debra Winger, Steven Soderbergh, Jane Fonda and the principa… more
Oct 31, 2014
At the end of the day, voters want a choice. If nothing else, the tight Nebraska 2nd Congressional District race pitting incumbent Lee Terry against challenger Brad Ashford gives voters a distinct option.  Pre-election surveys indicate a n… more
Oct 29, 2014
Leah McNary has been there for much of Creighton volleyball’s ascendancy from weak little sister program in the shadow of Big Red to all-grown-up competitor holding its own. “It’s exciting being a part of a process of building a program,” … more
Oct 16, 2014
In the Gloria Gaynor anthem “I Will Survive” a woman declares her personal autonomy. Not needing to find validation in another is a liberating thing worth celebrating in song.  Life imitates art whenever a poor single mother breaks free of… more
Oct 16, 2014
When Jill Anderson made Bram Stoker’s dark transmutation novel Dracula the theme for the 2014 Joslyn Castle Literary Festival she never imagined her own life would be marked by fear-inducing, life-altering transformation. In February the f… more
Oct 1, 2014
Experts say mental illness affects millions of lives each year and yet it often goes ignored and untreated. There’s no national mental health campaign urging people to be screened or to seek help. Accessing needed care can be hard due to a … more
Sep 25, 2014
Photographer Janette Beckman made a name for herself in the 1970s and 1980s capturing the punk scene in her native London and the hip-hop scene in her adopted New York City.  Dubbed “the queen of rock photographers,” her images appeared in… more
Sep 16, 2014
Award-winning filmmaker Maria Agui Carter has much to say about her new film Rebel, the story of a Latina who posed as a man to fight and spy in the American Civil War. Agui Carter will discuss the film, which recently aired as a PBS specia… more
Sep 15, 2014
The downtown Omaha Lit Fest this Friday and Saturday offers a compendium of writing topics and events around the theme Warped: Historical In/Accuracy, Navigating Fact and Fiction, Past and Present. Writing about the past is foremost on the… more
Sep 3, 2014
Omaha artist Watie White’s humanist public art projects reveal the narratives of transitional urban neighborhoods. The dynamics of locations and the people living there shape his site-specific works. Three 2014 projects, one completed and … more
Sep 3, 2014
Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of Omaha’s Temple Israel Synagogue builds bridges between people of different backgrounds and persuasions. Take for example his driving force work with the Tri-Faith Initiative, the project that intends creating a local c… more
Aug 27, 2014
Omaha North running back sensation and recent South Dakota verbal commit Calvin Strong put up sick numbers last season leading his school to its first state football title in the playoff era. His 3,008 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns set st… more
Aug 24, 2014
When the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy happened Ferial Pearson searched for answers and hope. Her bullied young son provided both when he revealed being comforted by her felt better than staying mad.  That got Pearson, an award-winning local edu… more
Aug 20, 2014
Omaha Fashion Week, the Midwest couture festival that pops up twice a year in the most unexpected places, is one of those signifier events that confirms this isn’t your parents’ city anymore.  It has returned to the much ballyhooed but sil… more
Aug 13, 2014
When Mark Evans accepted the job of Omaha Public Schools superintendent in December 2012, he knew the mission would be immense in this sprawling urban district facing myriad challenges.  With 51,000 students spread out over 86 schools loca… more
Aug 8, 2014
With impresario Gordon Cantiello’s new tribute show The Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash at The Waiting Room, it’s only natural to consider what makes the singer-songwriter of the title so enduring. The king of hard-scrabble, honky-t… more
Aug 1, 2014
If redevelopment plans for northeast Omaha come to full fruition then that long depressed district will see progress at-scale after years of patchwork promises. Old and new leaders from largely African-American North Omaha will be the drivi… more
Jul 20, 2014
Before a Feb. 27 packed house at the Holland Performing Arts Center a woman strode on stage to introduce playwright-poet-performance artist Daniel Beaty. Schalisha Walker, 25, was unknown to all but a few in the audience. She was there to … more
Jul 14, 2014
Entrepreneurial African missionary Aisha Okudi, 37, laid the foundation for her thriving business and ambitious humanitarian work during a period when she and her children were sometimes homeless. She’d been through worse.  Regardless of h… more
Jul 6, 2014
When Terence “Bud” Crawford defends his WBO lightweight title June 28 at the CenturyLink Center, he’ll fight for himself, his tight-knit family and a boxing community that’s not seen anything like this since 1972. Forty-two years ago heavy… more
Jun 24, 2014
When Terence “Bud” Crawford defends his WBO lightweight title June 28 at the CenturyLink Center, he’ll fight for himself, his tight-knit family and a boxing community that’s not seen anything like this since 1972. Forty-two years ago heavy… more
Jun 23, 2014
Sunday, June 8 Douglas County Historical Society Second Sunday Talk Metropolitan Community College, Fort Omaha Campus, Bldg. 21 (Mule Barn) 2 p.m., Free for members; suggested $5 donation for nonmembers Reservations required at: members@dou… more
Jun 1, 2014
“We’re kindred spirits with respect to the creation of performance and the creation of events to share with an audience,” says Plourde, a New York director. “We create performance, we create live events, we work with groups of artists we co… more
May 21, 2014
The University of Nebraska at Omaha has a veritable folk-hero in its midst in hard-throwing senior softball ace Dana Elsasser, who’s overcame serious challenges to become a pitching phenom. With her near legendary career fast nearing its … more
Apr 28, 2014
In the hybrid realm of slam poetry, where free verse, theater, oral storytelling and forensics converge to make a verbal gumbo, personal expression rules. Impassioned teen anguish stirs the pot to create a heady brew during the Louder T… more
Apr 27, 2014
Credit Omaha writer-director Jason Levering for possessing the temerity to not only consider adapting Stephen King’s meta horror novel The Shining to the stage but to follow through and actually get the master’s approval. Now he’s only ho… more
Mar 14, 2014
Ella, the dramatic musical revue of the life of American songbook diva Ella Fitzgerald at the Omaha Community Playhouse, reveals the anguish behind the legendary performer’s sweet voice and carefree persona. Call it kismet or karma, but… more
Mar 4, 2014
The March 5-9 Omaha Film Festival has gone all digital with its move from Regal Omaha Stadium 16 to Marcus Village Pointe Cinema at 304 No. 174th Street. Besides the sharper projection offered, OFF Program director Marc Longbrake says t… more
Mar 1, 2014
  Omaha ex-pat James Marshall Crotty, co-creator of the underground Monk magazine and author of alternative city guides, gained a cult following for his irreverent dashboard reporting about America’s fringes. His arch leanings are on di… more
Mar 1, 2014
As Omaha glories in Creighton Bluejays hoops superstar Doug McDermott’s historic season, another local sports figure going for greatness flies under the radar. Top Rank boxer Terence “Bud” Crawford challenges for the WBO lightweight tit… more
Feb 21, 2014
Two bodies in the mirror:
one’s me, the other’s you,
 with two far different cultures
some say will bring just strife.
… more
Feb 9, 2014
Filmmaker, musician and psychedelia aficionado Nik Fackler is a millennial seeker. It’s no surprise then he followed his well-crafted made-in-Omaha feature debut Lovely, Still (2008) with documentaries exploring cultures half-a-world away… more
Jan 28, 2014
Art imitates life when siblings Camille Metoyer Moten and Lanette Metoyer Moore evoke the Delany sisters in the African-American oral-history show Having Our Say at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Just as the play’s real-life Sadie and B… more
Jan 27, 2014
The recently launched Omaha Culinary Tours looks to capture foodies and urban explorers alike. Owners Jim Trebbien, Jen Valandra and Suzanne Allen are banking this town’s rich culinary scene is destination worthy enough to support the… more
Jan 14, 2014
  Dreamers from Neb., as from everywhere else, have flocked to Hollywood since the motion picture industry’s start. Softening the harsh realities of making it in Tinsel Town’s dog-eat-dog world, where who you know is often more vital … more
Jan 4, 2014
Sam’s Leon Mexican Foods and Tortilleria is one of this word-of-mouth joints that doesn’t really advertise. This combination dine-in and take-out restaurant, catering service and tortilla factory at 5014 South 20th Street has churned ou… more
Dec 14, 2013
Whether preparing and preserving food or discussing neighborhood concerns, bountiful activity goes on at this clubhouse meets social settlement house at 2737 Mary Street in northeast Omaha. An endeavor at sustainability and community … more
Dec 10, 2013
Addressing the food insecurity problems that nag poverty-stricken northeast Omaha, where access to fresh, organic produce, dairy and bread products is limited, are an array of individuals, organizations, projects and initiatives. Many eff… more
Nov 27, 2013
Organizations serving at-risk kids come and go but few stay the course the way the CW Youth Resource Center, 1510 Cass Street, has since opening in 1978. Founder-director Carl Washington hosts a Nov. 29 open house at CW from 4 to 8 p.m…. more
Nov 18, 2013
Local color, of the achingly human variety, is where Alexander Payne’s new black and white film Nebraska most deeply comes to life. After fall festival premieres abroad and across the U.S., Payne’s coming home to show off the film named… more
Nov 13, 2013
  When the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Latino and Latin American Studies holds its Nov. 8-9 Cumbre event, it will mark 10 years for this center dedicated to community engagement, applied research and teaching inside and … more
Nov 5, 2013
Long before the Food Network or even television’s start, long before our cult of celebrity, a certain French chef attained such fame that he became a culinary star concocting meals for socialites and royals. Georges Auguste Escoffier li… more
Nov 4, 2013
With words like justice, security, healthy and sustainable increasingly attached to food in America, two Omaha filmmakers with an undisguised POV have plugged into the sustainable edibles culture with a new documentary. In Growing Citie… more
Oct 21, 2013
On a sweltering Sunday afternoon in early July Omaha music guru Nils Anders Erickson takes me for a ride in his PT Cruiser to opine about his magnificent obsession with old things. The singer-songwriter-musician owns Rainbow Music, a co… more
Oct 15, 2013
Writer predilections take precedence at the October 18-19 (downtown) Omaha Lit Fest, an annual orgy of the written word organized by acclaimed resident author Timothy Schaffert (The Coffins of Little Hope). Nine years running Schaffert’… more
Oct 14, 2013
Two years since the U.S. pulled troops out of Iraq Americans still slog it out in Afghanistan — a full 12 years since its start. The dual wars for which so many paid a heavy price will forever be analyzed by the likes of Omaha native Joh… more
Sep 29, 2013
One of Omaha’s oldest brands, Storz beer, is back after nearly a half-century absence and locals are lapping up the suds with gusto. Two Storz family relatives, cousins Tom and John Markel, are reviving the brand as a beer and as the … more
Sep 16, 2013
Sometimes a work of art so well captures the spirit of a people and time that it becomes an enduring cultural talking point. Such is the case with Rudolfo Anaya’s 1972 coming-of-age novel Bless Me, Ultima, widely considered a seminal piec… more
Sep 12, 2013
After wrapping Nebraska the end of 2012 Alexander Payne holed up with editor Kevin Tent in L.A. to edit the film starting Jan. 7 and finally put the project to bed in early August. When I caught up with Payne and a small post crew in mid-… more
Sep 3, 2013
Jim Trebbien has been knocking around the Omaha food scene awhile, the last 25-plus years as dean of culinary arts, hospitality and horticulture at Metropolitan Community College. During that time he’s seen the local food culture evolve f… more
Aug 20, 2013
More than 600 folks turned out Saturday for the 16th Annual Community Block Party hosted by Apostle Vanessa Ward and her husband Keith Ward. As usual this multi-generational celebration of community in a northeast Omaha neighborhood once … more
Aug 12, 2013

BRYCE BRIDGES

Special to The New York Times If you’re a devotee of public television then chances are you saw the work of the late nonfiction filmmaker Gail Levin. The Omaha native and longtime New York City resident died July 31 in a NYC hospice car… more
Aug 10, 2013
Addressing the food insecurity problems that nag poverty-stricken northeast Omaha, where access to fresh, organic produce, dairy and bread products is limited, are an array of individuals, organizations, projects and initiatives. Many eff… more
Aug 5, 2013
When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s turn to speak came at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, it was near the end of a long program on a hot August day featuring addresses by civil rights leaders and performances by musician… more
Aug 5, 2013
Pamela Jo Berry saw a need for more art offerings in the section of northeast Omaha where she resides and decided to do something about it. With the help of friends and venues the photographer and mixed media artist created North Omaha … more
Jul 29, 2013
Theater gypsy Gordon Cantiello is back in town again. The stage veteran and former full-time Omaha resident teaches speech and theater at a private school in San Diego, Calif. When he lived here he put on dozens of plays from the early … more
Jul 29, 2013
Father Roy Bourgeois is a troublemaker. The 74-year-old has been roiling the waters for four decades as a social justice activist. Having the courage of his convictions has cost him dearly, including prison and ostracism. During an Au… more
Jul 29, 2013
The July 31-August 5 Native Omaha Days will feature metro-wide black heritage celebrations that on the surface don’t seem to have much to do with the American South. But when local African American families gather for the biennial Days most… more
Jul 22, 2013
Once dubbed a “cheerful subversive” by The New York Times, indie filmmaker Dan Mirvish uses his skills as a provocateur and promoter to get his obscure work noticed by the very mainstream whose noses he sometimes tweaks.  He’s in rare c… more
Jul 19, 2013
Johnny Carson wasn’t called the King of Late Night for nothing. In the days when television ruled American mass media culture the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson averaged 15 million nightly viewers. That’s three or four times the au… more
Jul 2, 2013
In a state with few destination attractions, Omaha’s Old Market arts-entertainment district packs them in. The draw is not any one or two venues, but a collective of shops, restaurants, bars, galleries and creative spaces, along with the … more
Jun 18, 2013
Compassion in Action’s move to the former Wesley House campus at 2001 North 35th Street is symbolic for CIA founder-executive director Teela Mickles. Her nonprofit serving men, women and children touched by the judicial and penal system… more
Jun 11, 2013
Identical twin brothers from Jewish suburbia, Ezra and Adeev Potash, are Omaha’s unlikely gift to the jazz world. Their soul and funk-infused horn playing has everyone from Big Sam Williams to Wynton Marsalis singing their praises. Ezra… more
Jun 3, 2013
The play’s still the thing with the Great Plains Theatre Conference but organizers are making a concerted effort to expand theater’s definition in order to connect more people to it. The May 26-29 PlayFest is the Metropolitan Community … more
May 11, 2013
The inaugural resident artists at the Carver Bank cultural center couldn’t be more unalike in some ways and more congruent in others.  Carver is the new Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Rebuild Foundation endeavor at 2416 Lake Str… more
May 1, 2013
Everything about one of Omaha’s bright new playwrights bespeaks exotica, starting with her name, Beaufield Berry. This biracial, bicoastal creative with model good looks has worked as an actor, a singer, a VIP dancer, a burlesque performe… more
Apr 19, 2013
Journalist and author Stew Magnuson’s new book Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding finds virtually every survivor of that 71-day occupation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in S.D. sullied in some way. The book by this Omaha native, w… more
Apr 19, 2013
State Sen. Brad Ashford’s poor showing in the April 2 Omaha mayoral primary isn’t deterring him from future elected office bids. The one-time Democrat and long-time Republican ignored advisors and ran as an independent against major par… more
Apr 15, 2013
As the Louder Than a Bomb Omaha Youth Poetry Festival draws to a close after weeks of preliminary bouts and last Sunday’s semi-finals, it appears slam poetry is a new outlet for that rite-of-passage known as adolescence. The 2013 team f… more
Apr 8, 2013
The woman behind the successful media enterprise of the Omaha Star helped inspire two of today’s leading women in media — Chicago Crusader publisher-editor Dorothy Leavell and Radio One chairperson and Omaha native Cathy Hughes. In thi… more
Apr 8, 2013
The civil rights and black power movements seem distant from Omaha until noting that Whitney Young Jr. cut his teeth as an advocate-organizer here and future activst Malcolm X was born here. While Malcolm X moved with his family from Om… more
Mar 17, 2013
You may not know the name but for more than a decade now Omaha native Yolonda Ross has been a stalwart actress in American independent cinema and quality television movies and episodic dramas. Before recently working with a pair of star… more
Mar 5, 2013
With gay marriage being assailed during an Iowa House Judiciary Committee public hearing in 2011 Zach Wahls offered counter testimony that not only charged the proceedings but the national dialogue about the issue. Raised by same sex partn… more
Mar 4, 2013
Four years ago Ruth Marimo sat in the Cass County Jail contemplating suicide. The mother of two and then-undocumented immigrant from Zimbabwe, Africa was there because her estranged husband, whom she says verbally and physically abused he… more
Feb 11, 2013
When writer-actor-composer Daniel Beaty conjures the 25-plus characters he portrays in his provocative one-man show, Emergency, it’s well to remember his riffs on the African-American experience are informed by his own life. His award-w… more
Feb 8, 2013
Soul sister poetesses Michelle Troxclair and Felicia “WithLove” Webster stir the pot to make the spicy mix of Verbal Gumbo, the spoken word series throwing down the third Thursday of every month at House of Loom. The artists launched th… more
Feb 8, 2013
Alberto “Beto” Gonzales believes working one-on-one with youths is the best way to reach them. His work as a mentor and gang prevention-intervention specialist has earned him much recognition, most recently the Martin Luther King Jr. Lega… more
Feb 6, 2013
On its face Watie White’s new public art project at an abandoned North Omaha house could be construed as a privileged white guy coming into the black community to impose his perceptions on that place and its people. But that’s not the c… more
Jan 28, 2013
The much-feted 2012 documentary The House I Live In provokes dialogue wherever it plays for its critique of America’s domestic War on Drugs. Following a January 22 Film Streams screening before a full house, a local panel discussed the fi… more
Jan 28, 2013
When she dreamed of rap stardom back in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, Tunette Powell went by Short Stack. Today, Tunette will do. After years of search and struggle and a need for attention she fed with men, the 26-year-old Bellevue… more
Jan 23, 2013
It took the civil rights movement to bring segregation in the United States into sharp relief. The South was the epicenter of the racial equality battle but American-style apartheid as well as attempts to dismantle it were everywhere, inc… more
Jan 17, 2013
Signature Old Market spot M’s Pub celebrates 40 years in business this year. It’s a milestone for any independently owned restaurant. But reaching four decades takes on added meaning because when M’s opened in 1973 (a planned 1972 opening… more
Jan 15, 2013
Nebraska’s favorite film son has not shot a single frame here since About Schmidt in 2002. Alexander Payne’s decision to make Nebraska in his home state brought into sharp relief some realities with large implications for his own work a… more
Jan 9, 2013
The subtle twang in the voice of stringed instrument-maker and roots musician John Hargiss betrays his southern Missouri Ozarks origins. As a boy he learned acoustic guitar under his musician-craftsman-woodsman father’s instruction. As a … more
Dec 14, 2012
It’s fitting a new book taking the measure of Nebraska politico legend Ernie Chambers is out just as this old social justice warhorse has proven he still owns the people’s will. In the Nov. 6 general election the 75-year-old Chambers de… more
Dec 7, 2012
A once prominent but long vacant building in Omaha’s African-American hub is now reborn thanks to catalysts bridging the divide between need and opportunity. The former Carver Savings and Loan Association at 2416 Lake St. was Omaha’s fi… more
Nov 28, 2012
In 1968 Francis Ford Coppola led a small cinema caravan to Ogallala, Neb. for the final weeks shooting on his independent road picture The Rain People starring Shirley Knight. Joining them were future fellow film legends George Lucas, Bil… more
Oct 22, 2012
Among the first things you notice at Sage Student Bistro is the staff’s earnestness. Greeters, servers and cooks are all students in Metropolitan Community College’s respected Institute for Culinary Arts, whose sleek building is the face … more
Oct 6, 2012
Beth Seldin Dotan has shepherded the Institute for Holocaust Education in Omaha since its 2000 inception. Before she leaves this fall for a new position in Israel she’ll witness the organization she grew from nothing into the state’s prim… more
Oct 5, 2012
Don’t look now but Michael Beasley is carving out a film-television career rivaling that of his powerhouse father John Beasley (Rudy, The Apostle). The nearly 20 feature and made-for-TV pics he’s booked the last few years have him on th… more
Sep 28, 2012
It should be no surprise the author of languidly paced satirical novels (The Coffins of Little Hope) that delight in peculiar, piquant details should fashion a literary happening along the same lines. Novelist Timothy Schaffert has done… more
Sep 28, 2012
Public television was a dream when Ron Hull joined what became the Nebraska Educational Television network in Lincoln. It was 1955 and the broadcast school graduate arrived inflamed with the possibilities of the fledgling medium. Fifty-… more
Sep 28, 2012
Gabrielle Union has reached a point in her film and television career where she’s doing more meaningful projects. Not by accident either. The maturing actress known for her assertive persona and frank views has been ever more deliberate a… more
Sep 26, 2012
Year two of the Great Omaha Chocolate Festival at UNO celebrates one of popular culture’s great food indulgences. Organizers of the September 30 event, which benefits the Omaha Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, say choc… more
Sep 25, 2012
Freddie Gray knows being second-guessed and scrutinized comes with the job of Omaha Public School Board President. But when she came under fire over her handling of the Nancy Sebring scandal she got more than she bargained for, including … more
Aug 13, 2012
With his new novel True Believers (Random House) Kurt Andersen takes stock of the roiling 1960s through the eyes of a fictional woman whose coming-of-age then unfolded in predictable and inexplicable ways. Through his narrator, attorney… more
Aug 6, 2012
Just as Omaha’s come of age with performing arts venues, nightlife attractions, community events and public spaces, so it’s matured in cinema. This maturation first bloomed when Alexander Payne made features here. Then the local indie f… more
Jul 18, 2012
Omaha’s not always embraced diversity but the local Tri-Faith Initiative may be a history-making model of interfaith cooperation. It’s proceeding with an audacious plan to locate a church, a synagogue a mosque and an ecumenical center on … more
Jul 10, 2012
Participants in girls and women’s sports today should be forgiven if they take for granted the bounty of athletic scholarships, competitive opportunities, training facilities and playing venues afforded them. After all, they’ve never kn… more
Jun 19, 2012
In his notable screen acting career John Beasley has done his share of television both as a one-off guest star (Detroit 1-8-7, Boston Legal, CSI: Miami, NCIS) and recurring player (Everwood, Treme). But in the new TVLand series The Soul… more
Jun 7, 2012
One-liners and nonsequiturs will fly at the June 13-17 Viareo Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, Neb., where the late comic great Johnny Carson grew up. This annual celebration of the funny side is equal parts competition, works… more
May 23, 2012
Three traveling baseball exhibitions on view in the metro this spring chart a history with local overtones and signals a comeback for a local organization. The exhibits are courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Omaha’s own Great … more
May 16, 2012
By now America’s accustomed to King of Comedy Bill Cosby turning serious about topics he usually mines humor from. Expressing his celebrity opinions he sometimes touches a nerve, as when he asserted “parenting is not going on” in poor inn… more
May 16, 2012
Self-determination by any means necessary. The sentiment is by Malcolm X, whose incongruous beginnings were in this conservative, white-bread city. Not where you’d expect a revolutionary to originate. Then again, his narrative would be … more
May 3, 2012
Poetry slams pit individuals and teams in bouts of spoken word street soliloquies that bring performers and spectators to tears and cheers the way arts and sports events do. Omaha’s long been home to a thriving adult slam scene, thanks … more
Apr 9, 2012
The 20th century migration African-Americans made from the South to the North and West expanded black enclaves across the nation. While Omaha didn’t experience a huge influx like Chicago or Los Angeles, it was enough to alter the cultural… more
Mar 31, 2012
After weeks of public testimony and closed door meetings on the hotly contested equal employment ordinance giving legal protection to gay and transgender residents, the Omaha City Council decided the issue March 13. Three-term District … more
Mar 26, 2012
Indigenous themes take center stage for a March 24 Omaha Conservatory of Music concert that culminates the school’s “Nebraska Roots: Native American Music of the Omaha Indian Tribe” curriculum. Original Native music handed down through th… more
Mar 21, 2012
Hawk Ostby, one half of the scriptwriting team of Children of Men and Iron Man, will provide an insider’s take on the screenwriting trade at the Omaha Film Festival’s Filmmaking Conference. Speaking by phone from his Vermont home, Ostby… more
Mar 7, 2012
In the 1990s Omaha native Jaime King’s fresh face and lithe body graced the runway fantastic for the likes of Gucci and Alexander McQueen in New York and around the globe. She did provocative shoots for Vogue, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Cosmo… more
Mar 7, 2012
The obvious and not so obvious came into focus when native son Alexander Payne accepted his second Oscar in front of a live audience of his peers and a television viewing audience estimated at 1.2 billion during Sunday’s Academy Awards. … more
Feb 29, 2012
The unpretentious, homey American GI Forum restaurant at 2002 N Street is a Tex-Mex bargain whose popular specials make this a busy joint. But unless you’re a South Omahan or get tipped off to the place by someone, this best-kept-secret… more
Jan 25, 2012
When Alexander Payne’s turn came to speak in the glow of The Descendants winning best motion picture drama at the Golden Globes, he made sure to thank the people of Hawaii and author Kaui Hart Hemmings. He did something few directors do… more
Jan 25, 2012
Brigitte McQueen is hell-bent on revolution. The entrepreneurial arts maven first made a splash with Pulp in Benson. Then she revived the Bemis Underground in the Old Market. Now she’s about to shake up North Omaha via The Union for Con… more
Dec 8, 2011
The annual Renaissance Madrigal Christmas Feast at the Omaha Marriott is equal parts Tony and Tina’s Wedding, Shakespeare, Knights of the Round Table and Food Network theme show. That is if the theme is a Saxon bacchanal. A food orgy all … more
Nov 19, 2011
Singer-songwriter-turntable artist SA Martinez is a cog in the successful rock band 311 that started in Omaha 21 years ago and is still going strong today from its Southern Calif.-base. Recordings and national tours keep the group, whose … more
Nov 16, 2011
In his well-reviewed new film The Descendants Alexander Payne reframes the Hawaiian idyll as gritty American terrain where history and culture intersect with human aspirations and failings. The festival favorite follows an island clan s… more
Nov 11, 2011
South Omaha native son David Krajicek’s crime writing has branded him Mr. Murder, so it’s only apt he looks the heavy with his bearded mug, bouncer glare and imposing size. This tabloid poet and rebel, who hails from a long line of barkee… more
Oct 27, 2011
Brigitte McQueen is hell-bent on revolution. The entrepreneurial arts maven first made a splash with Pulp in Benson. Then she revived the Bemis Underground in the Old Market. Now she’s about to shake up North Omaha via the Union for Con… more
Oct 22, 2011
John Beasley got tired of being tired. You’ve likely learned the John Beasley Theater & Workshop’s urgent appeal for funds to relieve its financial distress has been answered, and the once-endangered 2011-2012 season saved. But yo… more
Oct 19, 2011
When Alexander Payne cast locals Nicholas D’Agosto and Chris Klein in Election, he opened doors for the two dreamy, boy-next-door types. Klein burned hot and bright before flaming out. D’Agosto’s gradual rise may reach new heights with … more
Oct 11, 2011
In his capsule of the 2011 (downtown) Omaha Lit Fest, founder-director and novelist Timothy Schaffert draws a parallel with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Specifically, to the humbug Wizard’s endowing the Tin Woodman with a heart made of sil… more
Oct 11, 2011
Last month a New York City audience embraced the world premiere of the multimedia concert piece, Portals, and now the work’s come back to its other home, Omaha’s KANEKO, for performances October 5-6. As creative director, acclaimed viol… more
Oct 4, 2011
John Sorensen is like many Nebraska creatives who left to pursue a passion. The Grand Island native and longtime New York City resident worked with master filmmaker Alexander MacKendrick (The Sweet Smell of Success) and Broadway legends… more
Sep 30, 2011
The uneasy place which race inhabits in the collective American psyche leaves most discussions of the subject to academics, activists or attorneys. But its reality permeates much of the social-cultural fabric.  Rhetoric about race is co… more
Sep 29, 2011
However you feel about Alexander Payne’s work, the cinema landscape is richer now that he’s back with his first feature since Sideways. That’s certainly the consensus among reviewers who’ve seen his The Descendants. The September 10 pre… more
Sep 17, 2011

Jason McClaren

Early in his life as a brother in the Society of Jesus, his superiors asked Mike Willmot what kind of work he wanted to do. The former Marquette (Milwaukee, Wis.) University High School three-sport athlete said he wanted to coach. Perhaps… more
Sep 8, 2011
Ferial (Mohamed) Pearson’s work with GLBT and other high-risk youths at South High Magnet School earned her the 2010 Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s National Educator of the Year award and the 2011 National Education Associa… more
Aug 25, 2011
A small town Nebraska son who cut his teeth on the movies is living his cinema dream producing an independent feature starring Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine in the title role of The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez. The film, … more
Aug 15, 2011
Public radio’s popular Whad’Ya Know?, headlined by creator-producer-host Michael Feldman, comes to the Holland Performing Arts Center for a live, two-hour road show Aug. 13. Produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and distributed by Public Rad… more
Aug 12, 2011
Fresh off the warm reception given his debut feature, Lovely, Still, Omaha’s Film Dude, Nik Fackler, says his next two film projects will be documentaries. Following the path of cinema adventurer Werner Herzog, Fackler’s tramping off to… more
Aug 10, 2011
With Native Omaha Days over, another traditional African-American summer gathering, the Bryant-Fisher Family Reunion, begins. The biennial Native Omaha Days began in 1977. But it’s a newbie compared to the historic annual reunion that d… more
Aug 3, 2011
Through August 1 Native Omaha Days Various sites, venues Hours, prices vary www.nativeomahans.com Let’s get this out of the way right now: Native Omaha Days is not just for “black folk.” Yes, this biennial community reunion is a lar… more
Jul 23, 2011
Recent adoption of the North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan into the city master plan gives direction and impetus to energizing a stagnated, disinvested area never fully recovered from decades-ago civil disturbance and urban renewal. … more
Jul 22, 2011
Rev. Everett Reynolds was not from Nebraska but he’s remembered as someone who made a significant mark here.  The St. Louis, Mo. native passed earlier this week in Omaha at age 83.  As a United Methodist minister and community leader … more
Jul 21, 2011
Make no mistake about it, filmmaker Omowale Akintunde intends for his 2010 racially-charged Omaha-made feature, Wigger, to provoke a strong response. After premiering here last year, and in limited theatrical release around the country,… more
Jul 21, 2011
Omaha’s oldest social service agency closed earlier this year with a whimper, not a bang. The Wesley House Community Center, a United Methodist Church mission since 1872, has ended 139 years of service, confirmed Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, … more
May 20, 2011
Four years ago Daniel Mayorga-Alvarez and Treasure Anderson took the challenge of enrolling in a new high school with strict disciplinary codes, high academic standards and the requirement of working a paid internship. The teens signed on … more
May 12, 2011
Rumors about the impending demise of a north Omaha cultural institution began flying last fall when Loves Jazz & Arts Center, 2510 N. 24th St., took an extended break from normal operations. Even the hint of trouble alarmed the Africa… more
May 5, 2011
With all the fabulous things Alice Kim ‘s done in New York City and now her entrepreneurial foray in Omaha, she says what she’s proudest of is helping people. At InStyle she says she found great satisfaction “helping small designers get nat… more
May 5, 2011

BRYCE BRIDGES

Read More: Kim helps locals realize NYC dream Alice Kim’s story of leaving New York City for Omaha has gotten much play. In 2007, the then- InStyle magazine accessories editor acted on her admittedly “weird,” long-held preoccupation with … more
May 5, 2011

ADAM BRUBAKER

If you go to Sons of Italy expecting a “Jersey Shore” or Goodfellas scene, you’ll leave disappointed. If you anticipate a square meal and a fair deal, minus any drama, you’ll leave satisfied, and probably stuffed. The Nebraska chapter of t… more
Apr 28, 2011

PROVIDED BY RANDY BROWN

See also: Tax form led Sun to Boys Town’s ‘hidden’ assets When readers picked up their March 30, 1972 issue of the weekly Sun Newspaper , they could hardly believe their eyes. The small but enterprising paper with multiple neighborhood … more
Apr 27, 2011
Timothy Schaffert’s new novel The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled) takes its elegiac tone from Essie, the elderly obit writer and sage of a fading ag town. Her inquisitiveness and intuition make her the apt narrator for relating this rura… more
Apr 13, 2011
Storytellers drawn to boxing’s inherent drama invariably find redemption at its soul and conflict as its heart. Ring tales are on a roll thanks to Mark Wahlberg’s Oscar-winning film The Fighter and FX’s series, “Lights Out,” (the series fi… more
Mar 31, 2011
In the space of a few years Charles Fairbanks has gone from conventional prep and collegiate wrestler to one of the few gringo performers of Lucha Libre, Mexico’s equivalent of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Amid a world of masked f… more
Mar 3, 2011
Film festivals are the brothels of cinema. High-end ones offer uniform quality. Low-rent ones are enter-at-your-own-risk propositions. In its sixth year, the Omaha Film Festival, showing now through March 6 at the Great Escape Theatre, is … more
Mar 2, 2011
Steven Soderbergh may not generate the snobby, effete buzz of some name directors, yet he’s arguably the most prolific and accomplished American filmmaker of the past 20 years. As special guest for the Feb. 20 Film Streams Feature Event III… more
Feb 10, 2011
Omaha Symphony Orchestra music director Thomas Wilkins was first inspired to be a conductor at age 8 during a Virginia Symphony Orchestra pops performance in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia. From the opening rendition of “The Star Spangle… more
Jan 13, 2011
Omaha native and Emmy Award-winning documentarian Gail Levin profiles actor Jeff Bridges in a new film kicking off the 25th season of “American Masters,” a series produced for PBS by New York Public Media THIRTEEN in association with WNET. … more
Jan 11, 2011
Coming soon. The words on the hand-printed sign affixed to the glass doors of the rebuilt Bagel Bin, at 1215 S. 119th St., seem benign enough. But behind the hopeful words is the bittersweet story of a family-owned kosher bakery that went… more
Dec 2, 2010
Bill Maher gets real Acerbic television host and political comic Bill Maher views the 60-70 stand-up gigs he does each year as opportunities to connect with the American gestalt. His Oct. 24 Omaha Music Hall show will be among them. “W… more
Oct 21, 2010
Oct. 26 An Inaugural Ride to Freedom Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater 1340 Mike Fahey St. Screening and post-show Q & A w/ director Akintunde $9, $7 seniors/students/teachers/military 7 p.m., 933.0259, filmstreams.org Get on the bu… more
Oct 21, 2010
Lovely, Still enjoys wide release When Martin Landau spins anecdotes about icons he’s worked with during a celebrated acting career, it is a Who’s Who of Hollywood. James Dean, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton,… more
Oct 1, 2010
Omaha’s desired brand as a progressive, livable, eco-friendly burg with enhanced mobility options took a step forward with city government’s recent hiring of Carlos Morales as the city’s first bicycle pedestrian coordinator. Morales start… more
Sep 24, 2010

 

Life Itself: Six years of Omaha Magazine stories about people. their passions and their magnificent obsessions

April 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Life Itself: Six years of Omaha Magazine stories about people. their passions and their magnificent obsessions

©by Leo Adam Biga

Author-Journalist-Blogger

 

Park Avenue Revitalization & Gentrification

February 16, 2018 · Posted In: MidtownOmaha HomePlaces
As revitalization has come to diverse and densely packed Park Avenue, a tale of two neighborhoods has emerged. The north end—near 30th and Leavenworth streets and Midtown Crossing—finds a millennial haven of developer-renovated historic properties […]

Alexander Payne’s Homecoming

February 13, 2018 · Posted In: FilmOmaha MagazinePeople
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John Knicely: A life in television five decades strong 

February 26, 2018 1 comment

 

John Knicely: A life in television five decades strong 

©Story by Leo Adam Biga

©Photos by Jeff Reinhardt

Appearing in the March 2018 issue of New Horizon

Anchormen are mainstays of the old local network affiliate television tradition that saw men, almost never women, read news on-air. Much has changed in TV in terms of gender equity. Women anchors, reporters and news directors are common now,. But there’s no getting around the fact that for a large portion of the viewing audience age 55 and above, a man delivering the news was the norm. Though men now share newscasting duties with women as part of co-anchor teams, it’s still a male-dominated field behind the camera.

Just as there’s frequent turnover in other industries, people don’t stay put in broadcast journalism very long. In TV, where ratings and focus groups rule job security and on-air personalities look to bigger markets, station hopping comes with the territory. Plus, reporting-anchoring is often a gateway to other careers, such as corporate public affairs. That’s why WOWT co-anchor John Knicely is that rarest of creatures. He’s been the face of the same station for 26 years. It constitutes the longest run by any one anchor in this market since television emerged in the late 1940s-early 1950s.

His presence on local TV extends back even further – all the way to 1974, when the Sidney, Neb. native and University of Nebraska Lincoln graduate first joined WOWT, not as a newsman but on the sports side. He was a popular Omaha TV sports figure from then through 1981, when he made his only career move outside this market to do sports in St. Louis for three years. He returned to Omaha in 1984, still doing sports, only at WOWT’s chief rival, KETV, where he was part of the top-rated local newscast team that also featured Carol Schrader, Michael Scott and Jim Flowers.

Going from sports to news and connecting with viewers

Then, in 1992, he was part of a media shakeup that made headlines when he and Flowers left No. 1 KETV for then doormate WOWT and he simultaneously made the unusual move over from the sports desk to the news desk. WOWT’s ratings climbed and he’s remained in the anchor chair ever since.

“I had heard of another sports guy who made that transition in another market,” Knicely said of the sports to news switch. “As we thought about it, my wife and I, it was a way to advance and not have to move out of town. With five kids at home at the time it was really appealing. It was, I suppose, taking a chance because you’re known for 20 years in sports and then changing over to news. But we had a really good consultant then. He said, ‘Don’t try to be any different just because you’re doing news now – be yourself’ – which was great advice. You don’t have to be something else.

“The biggest thing was meshing with my co-anchor Pat Persuad. It’s not that it had to be hard or anything. it’s just that I was always sports alone. I produced everything myself – went out into the field and did it and it was done. But in this case you’re working with somebody and there’s kind of a rhythm you need to develop and get into – and a trust . And for Pat, she had a sports guy coming in to do this. She’d had a couple previous anchors that she worked with. She was very gracious. My wife Sue and I made a point to go out to lunch with Pat so that she could get to know us better.”

In broadcast journalism, it’s all about connecting enough with viewers to make them feel comfortable having you, so to speak, in their living room or kitchen or bedroom.

“You make a connection if you’re genuine, if you’re real about who you are,” Knicely said. “There’s a comfort level I think that develops. Of course, not everybody’s going to like your style or like something about you, but that’s the business.

“You think back to the first time you were on TV and how foreign that camera lens seemed to you. You’re wondering, ‘What am I talking to?’ There’s nothing talking back to you or anything. But I think pretty early on I was able to get that and be at ease doing it, and if you’re at ease, then I think your viewer’s at ease, too.”

He actually discovered his knack for communicating to others in high school speech class.

“I got in front of the class to give a speech and I just felt comfortable, right at home. I really enjoyed it. There was something about them responding to what I said. I usually did something that I thought was humorous. You got that instant feedback” not unlike a stage performer.

“I was successful at it.”

Just as many successful communicators imagine they’re speaking to one person in the audience, Knicely said, “I think in a way I do that – it’s almost like the camera becomes that individual. It’s the only thing out there. You don’t really think about the number of people you’re being seen and heard by. but it’s definitely that projection right into that camera.”

He’s not always at his best.

“I think some nights you don’t feel like you connected as well. Maybe the copy didn’t get in early enough for you to look at it and make some changes – because it has to be conversational. That’s really critical.”

A good newscast presentation has to do with intangibles like charisma, chemistry and energy but also measurables like pace. Anything can throw the whole works off, whether a flubbed line or a technological glitch or just not feeling yourself.

Knicely’s consistently resonated with enough viewers – two generations of them – that he’s outlasted countless other local on-air talents. Along the way, he’s carved a niche as a participatory journalist. It started with the “I Challenge John” series he did at KETV and it’s continued through the “John at Work” and “Knicely Done” segments he’s become known for at WOWT. He’s also developed a sterling reputation for integrity.

A man of faith

Off the air, he often shares his values and faith at public functions where he’s asked to speak.

He finds congruence between his on-air and off-air self.

“If I didn’t have my faith, it would be a different story because I may then have to be this person on camera but off the camera a different person. But since I’m the same person in both places that really takes that kind of pressure off because it’s nothing I really have to worry about since I’m still being myself.”

His professionalism doesn’t allow his personal views to leak through his work as a journalist.

“In regard to the stories you do, it’s always objective and both sides of the story. I understand there are different views and feelings and it’s not my job to give my views. If I’m speaking at an organization that invites me to come and speak and they ask me to share my faith, I’m certainly able to do that.”

 

Ageless

As Omaha’s version of Dick Clark, he’s seemingly defied aging by still looking remarkably like he did when he started all those years ago. The former high school athlete – he played football, basketball and golf – has always made fitness a priority and he still exercises most every day. At the station he gets in a workout between evening newscasts at its subterranean workout room, complete with racquetball court and basketball hoop. When his kids were young and visiting dad at work, they’d shoot hoops there.

He’s gracefully aged into Omaha’s longest-lived TV icon. He’s a grandfather several times over. He’s twice the age of most of his colleagues and has more experience in the business than many of them have lived. All of which makes him the dean of area TV journalists.

Still manning the anchor desk at age 66 means he’s also defied a growing trend toward younger on-air talent. His familiar face and age may actually be a plus for audiences since the demographic that consumes network affiliate programs tends to be older and thus he’s the face of a proven, trusted news organization. That matters in an era with a glut of online news and social media, much of it unreliable or unvetted.

Doing it all

Knicely has not only withstood TV’s ageism, he’s gone against the grain by shooting, editing and writing his own stories in the field – a rare practice among anchors. It flies in the face of the stereotype that anchors are talking air heads who can’t string two words together unless they’re scripted for them on a teleprompter, or in today’s studio world, on an Ipad.

“There aren’t many news anchors that go out and shoot a story, edit it, write it, read it. ‘Knicely Done’ – I do all that myself. They’ve given me a camera to use. I know exactly what I want and I know what makes a good story. I know the natural sound you’ve got to mix in, so I can shoot it and produce it. Some of that goes back to shooting sports – I was familiar with angles and shots.

“But it’s a lot of extra work doing it that way. The typical way – you go do the interview, write the story and then hand it off and that’s all your involvement is. But I don’t do it that way. My way, there is that accomplishment and the creativeness you get to express.”

He’s heard the jokes about anchor people and, he said, “I don’t think it applies to me because I’m involved in every aspect and want to be,” adding, “I want to have a good product I present that has my name on it.”

Filing his own stories for “John at Work” and “Knicely Done” has given him an opportunity to stand apart from the pack by getting his hands dirty and showing his personality. For the latter, he did everything from working on a garbage hauling crew to climbing a 2,000 foot television tower to being a middle school principal to flying with the Blue Angels.

“The one thing about it is that it keeps it fresh and new. You’re presenting something in a different fashion. News doesn’t always have to be serious. It can be informative and give you an idea of what’s going on in the community that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about. There’s really good things about that approach. And it’s not about you, it’s the fact that this is what’s happening behind the scenes with certain jobs or personalities in our community that you get to showcase.”

The segments also counter the frequent criticism leveled at TV news that it reports too much negativity.

“You hear all the time, ‘Why do you guys only give the bad news?’ Well, we don’t. When the good news kind of goes by and you’ve watched it, I don’t know what happens to it. It’s like, ‘Did you forget that we did a good positive story?’ ‘Knicely Done’ is always positive. It’s highlighting good works in our community.

“Maybe because of the emphasis of the lead story at the  top of the newscast, which is usually a serious story about an issue or some crime or disaster, the good news kind of gets lost. It’s kind of sad that’s the case. Also, you’re exposed to news throughout the day with the different mediums out there and you hear a lot of bickering and negative things going on and you kind of lump it all together with news in general. Maybe viewers are not as discriminating in thinking about it.”

He’s convinced that local news broadcasts, whether over the air or streaming, remain relevant.

“The first thing would be breaking news because it’s happening now and we can bring it to you right now, Newspapers have video and online services, so you can get it there, but not in the same capacity, Then there’s the local issues that develop that we cover in real-time. It could be the school board voting that night on the new superintendent and we capture the results and reactions on camera. We can bring you really anything happening in the city – crime and scams going on right now, things you need to be aware of as a viewer.”

On the lighter side, he’s a pretty good sport who doesn’t take himself too seriously. whether working someone else’s job or accepting a competitive challenge.

“Yeah, you have to know how to fail and live with it. It’s always pretty much tongue-in-cheek. We make it fun.”

He no sooner started the “I Challenge John” pieces, he said, then he was “swamped with letters – I couldn’t answer them all and I couldn’t do them all.” Many  challenges he accepted were from kids. “I lost to a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds.” Once, memorably, he played goalie and tried and failed to stop youth ice hockey players from scoring on him. “My self-esteem just sank. But they were fun things.”

He’ll never forget two challenges.

“A guy had me come out to Carter Lake for a water ski challenge. Well, I water ski, so I thought this shouldn’t be tough. We get out in the boat and he says, ‘See that ski jump over there? You’re going to go over that.’ Sure enough, next thing I knew i went over it. He told me beforehand, ‘When you hit that, don’t pull back on the rope.’ There’s this trickle of water always coming down on the board to keep it slippery – so you can slide. Well, I hit that ramp, pulled back on the rope, and my skis started going straight up. I was looking right up into heaven. I  landed smack on my back and went under water and I thought, ‘Okay, the rescue boat is going to be here,’ and it was and the guys were laughing.

“One humiliation after another.

“Another time, I played chess at Brownell-Talbot against their champion. He was a brilliant senior. He played me with a paper sack over his head in front of the whole student body. They would call out my move and in 10 seconds he had the next move, and he checkmated me, I later ran into one of the professors there, and he said, ‘I know chess and I knew he had you checkmated earlier.’ And so I asked the kid, ‘Why didn’t you do it then?’ and he said, ‘Well, I promised the student body  I’d take the whole hour.'”

Some challenges Knicely politely declined out of safety concerns. Para sailing was one. “I thought, ‘I’ve got five kids, I can’t get up in that thing by myself.’ I even declined parachuting. I’ve done it since.”

 

From the heart

Perhaps the most personal storiy he ever filed was in tribute to the derring-do of his late father, Jack Richard Knicely, an Omaha native who co-piloted B-24s and C-46s in the China-Burma-India Theater. He flew missions over the “Hump” (Himalayan Mountains). The son accompanied the father on an honor flight to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial.

The trip meant a lot to both of them.

“You won’t find anyone more loving of his country than my dad was. In his late age he would get tearful when he would talk about the men and women who served. There was one very dangerous, almost desperate situation that his co-pilot pulled them out of that he would get tearful about remembering.

“That memorial visit was really fantastic because the plane was full of veterans. When we got to D.C.. there was a gauntlet of people cheering as all these veterans walked through and, boy. it was emotional. Dad actually sat next to a guy who also flew B-24s. Pretty amazing. It was so special to see Dad’s reaction to what a great tribute they put together in their honor. It was humbling. It was just great to experience it with him.”

The Greatest Generation holds great store for Knicely.

“I love that description  When you think that they were 18. 19, 20 years-old and without question enlisted right away to do what they could for our country. Totally selfless. We can’t thank them enough.”

His father’s passing offered another opportunity to pay respect to his service, which included years in the Air Force Reserves before retiring with the rank of colonel.

“At his funeral they had a full military salute. As we drove into the cemetery I looked over at all these young military people standing at attention as the hearse drove by. Then they had the gun salute and folding of the flag and presentation. Wow, did that ever hit hardcore .”

Showing another side of things

Knicely’s entrepreneurial news reporting has its roots in a series he did at WOWT about two decades ago.

“Our news director then was John Clark and I asked him, ‘Can you just give me my own camera because it will free me up to get some things that otherwise I can’t get?’ So, he did. It started that way. He had seen my work at KETV. But my going out and finding stories really evolved from when I came over to WOWT in 1992. We had a little time before I could go on the air and so I proposed that I go live in the projects in North Omaha for three days. John assigned a photographer to me who was kind of street smart and we went in and lived in the Hilltop Housing project for two nights and three days and found just a whole bunch of positive stories that you don’t hear about in that community of young women really working hard to improve, take care of their families and get out.

“The one apartment in the whole complex that allowed the bad guys to come in just tortured everybody. That’s the way it was. The idea for the series kind of caught my news director off guard. He was like, ‘Should we do this or not?” He okayed it and we had three good nights of stories out of it. A lot of good positive stuff. We called it ‘Three Days in The Jets’ because the people living there called the projects The Jets. I edited it and wrote it. I used music. Back then, you could use music more. It makes a big difference in a story.”

A purpose-driven life and career

Hundreds of stories have followed. He’s won recognition from his peers for his work. Yet, this nearly 45-year fixture of Omaha media wasn’t even sure he wanted a career in television as late as his graduation from UNL with a broadcast journalism degree.

“My dad was a lawyer. My brother’s a lawyer. Even right to the end of school I was still kind of thinking that, too.”

There already was a journalist in the family though. His mother Betty wrote a column called “Panhandle Mother” for the Sidney Star-Telegraph that John admired and she encouraged his own reporting interests.

Then fate or divine providence intervened.

“Coming out of college, I had two job offers. One was Sioux City TV. The other was Lincoln radio. I took the one in Lincoln because I had a girlfriend in Lincoln. TV would have been the better choice in hindsight. But then three months later there was a job opening at Channel 6 in Omaha and my old college professor Dr. Larry Walklin said, ‘You should apply for that.’ It was a weekend sports job. So I came down here and interviewed.

“I had long hair back then. I got the job in like a week’s time. The opportunity just came. I really think God opened the door for me at that time. There was a sense about it that this is supposed to happen.”

He’s indebted to his teacher for the job tip.

“He didn’t have to call me and find me. I was out of school. But he was so nice to do that and I’ve thanked him several times since.”

An aphorism from his old prof turned words to live by once Knicely entered the real world of working media.

“Dr. Walklin always told us ‘never assume anything.’ In college you didn’t understand what that meant, but, boy, when you get in the business you do.”

Knicely joined a strong, veteran newscast.

“Gary Kerr was the anchor. Dale Munson did weather, Steve Murphy was news director, Ray Depa was assistant news director. Wally Dean was there, too. They were so professional. True journalists. They were just a tremendous example and it was a real learning experience working around them. Wonderful guys.”

The three broadcast network affiliates had the market to themselves.

“It was such a different era back then with just three TV stations. It was very competitive.”

Knicely was off and running in his career. But something was missing.

“I’d probably worked here six months to a year. I had all these things going for me: a great job, friends, fun activities. You’d think you’d be happy because you’re meeting all these goals. But I just had this shallowness inside me. The depth wasn’t there. I was kind of running from God and couldn’t get away. It was like He was saying, ‘John, I have a real purpose for your life,’ and it just resonated for me.

“Things were happening in my family, too, with deeper walks in faith by my mom and dad and my brother. I  grew up around church but I realized, ‘No, there’s some depth they have that I don’t. Finally, I got down on my knees on Christmas Eve. I was working alone. I just said, ‘Alright, Lord, I give you my life – you use it the way you want to use it, and that’s my commitment to you.’ It was a very personal thing. God really spoke into my life. I started reading the Bible. It was jumping off the pages to me. That was 1975. It’s been a long time.”

 

Moving past tragedy and trauma

His faith was seriously tested before and after his born again experience. In his teens his mother Betty was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“She had an operation and never really recovered from that. She was in a coma state. Before she passed away, we all came home and she would acknowledge us. My brother asked her if she’d like to say the Lord’s Prayer and in spite of the fact she was in a coma she came out of it to say that with him. Spiritually, it was pretty dramatic for everybody in the family. With our Christian faith, we’re confident she was with the Lord and we’ll meet again one day.”

His father later remarried a widow, Jan, with two girls of her own and thus Knicely found himself part of a blended family as a young adult.

“I didn’t know what to expect with a new mom introduced to the family, There was an adjustment but we all understood what a blessing it was and it proved to be an absolute godsend for everybody. They were married almost 40 years when he passed away at age 92. Her daughters looked at him as Dad. Jan’s just a very loving, kind person and treated us like her own, especially our kids.”

Decades later, Knicely’s own family experienced a crucible no one should have to endure. His daughter Krista was attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she lived alone off campus, when an intruder broke into her place one night and began assaulting her before help arrived. She called her parents in Omaha, distraught after barely escaping with her life.

“It was traumatic,” Knicely recalled. “We get the phone call that night, ‘Mom and dad, somebody just attacked me.’ We’re here and she’s down in Waco and how do you get through the night until you get down there and hold her. The whole ordeal was a miracle of how she was saved. There wasn’t anybody around. There was no hope when this guy attacked. It was clear he was intent on harming her because she fought with everything she could. The first words she remembered saying when she realized this wasn’t some practical joke or something were, ‘Help me, Jesus.’

“While she was still struggling, being choked, two guys coming to pick her up saw what was going on through the window and one ran to get police officers they’d just pased in the neighborhood. The officers got there and burst in with guns drawn. They told the guy to freeze but he bolted and Krista’s friends ran after him, caught up to him and tackled him, and put a nice welt on the guy for me. He was arrested. It turned out he had done similar things to other women.”

The criminal justice process meant reliving the incident.

“There was the whole ordeal of going through the trial,” Knicely said. “At the sentencing you have the opportunity to speak to the defendant. I wrestled all night with whether I was going to say anything or not. The next day I still hadn’t decided. Then, in the courtroom the next thing I know I’m moving up to the stand and talking.”

He believes what he spoke was inspired from on high.

“I was able to address that guy and tell him ‘what you did is not going to have a hold over our family – we forgive you for what you did, it’s wrong, and you’re going to get the punishment you deserve.’ It just kind of released everything on behalf of my family and Krista my daughter.”

Krista’s moved on with her life but there’s still repercussions.

“She still has to work through that,” Knicely said. “It’s not been the easiest healing. When she was able to forgive her perpetrator it was a transformation and she went on to become Miss Nebraska. Her platform was bringing awareness about violence against women. We couldn’t have known all these positive things were going to happen. We’re still so thankful to this day.”

Stolid, almost never controversial, and still at it

Knicely is in a decidedly young person’s game and he acknowledges, “I’m getting to the end of my career. I’m aware of that.”

His son John surprised him by following him in the business. John junior is now an anchor in Seattle.

“I told him even if he wasn’t my son, I’d watch him. He does a good job.”

Knicely, the “old man,” doesn’t concede anything.

“I feel like I’m just as active as I ever was.”

The work also hasn’t grown stale for him.

“It’s still fresh in many ways and that doesn’t seem possible. But it might be because the content changes every night and there’s a change that happens as you sit down to go on camera and do the news. It’s an opportunity to connect with viewers.

“It’s pretty remarkable that it’s not like, ‘Oh no, not this again.’ But it’s not that way. It’s the people you work with, too, that make a difference. Mallory’s full of life and fun to joke with. Rusty Lord and Ross Jernstrom are fun.”

Knicely’s squeaky clean image has never been tarnished by controversy, He did suffer ribbing for an on-air faux pas when he said crystal meth instead of Crystal Light and the mistake ended up on the butt of a joke on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show.

Years earlier, Knicely was cast as a villain in some circles for jumping ship from KETV to WOWT. Channel 6 was motivated to break up the ratings leader team at Channel 7 and Knicely knew of the strategy thanks to an inside source.

“I was communicating with a person I knew at 6. Then I had a clandestine meeting with the general manager at a very discreet little coffee shop. I realized in talking to him that, yeah, this could happen. WOWT’s concern was a non-compete clause in my contract which said you had to stay off the air for a year in the market. They were content with that. Well, when 6 hired me and Jim Flowers, Channel 7 went right to a judge to make sure non-compete was enforced. But the judge ruled against them, saying Neb. is a right to work state and there was nothing so unique about us that couldn’t be replaced, so we were on the air in three months instead of a year.”

The only time Knicely left for a bigger market was St. Louis. There were other occasions when he eyed a move. When still doing sports at 7, he was the runner-up for the sports director slot at a station in Phoenix.

“But being close to family and being comfortable raising my kids in this community won out and I just didn’t very actively pursue anything. If I was contacted by somebody, I considered it, but …”

Home is where the heart. That’s why he’s here to stay.

Follow John at https://www.facebook.com/john.knicely.

 

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