Tag Archives: Tom Brokaw

Life as a Maverick

June 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Erin Owen is an enthusiastic supporter of the Mavericks—the academic and athletic symbol of the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she now serves as executive director of the Office of University Communications.

The word “maverick” also means an independent thinker. That description fits Owen.

And she has always worked for mavericks—such as her first boss, then-U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey. She first met him at neighborhood block parties in the Cathedral neighborhood of Omaha where she grew up.

Being hired as a receptionist in Kerrey’s Washington office in 1994 was her big break. During her six years there, she moved up to assistant communications director and creator-producer of the senator’s cable show.

ErinOwen2“Bob Kerrey is a maverick because he is an innovative thinker. He has the ability to be frank,” Owen says. “He had the courage to speak out and be honest with his observations.”

Kerrey says: “Whatever capacity and courage I have to think independently and acquire a reputation of being a maverick was enabled by other mavericks like Erin.”

Owen, while still in high school, entered the political sphere as an unpaid volunteer for Kerrey’s 1988 senate campaign. She has never seen age—or anything, for that matter—as a hurdle that can’t be overcome. “I don’t see barriers when I’m trying to accomplish something; if there is a will, there is a way. And I won’t stop trying.”

Her next boss was Tim Russert, bureau chief of NBC’s Washington bureau and moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press before his death in 2008. She became the show’s producer.   

“Tim was the quintessential maverick,” Owen says. “He didn’t think in a conventional way. He was a lawyer with a critical mind. Tim was able to take the most complicated topic and boil it down so everyone understood.”

Her five years producing Meet the Press, the longest-running news show in television history, came during an exciting time in history. She remembers the presidential election coverage in 2000 when the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush came down to a handful of votes.

“Tim and Tom Brokaw never got up from the anchor desk for 11 hours. It was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life.”

Owen and her husband, Rob, returned to Omaha from Washington, D.C., in 2009 after their daughter, Ava, was born.

She grew up in a family of mavericks. “My dad (writer and journalist Jim Fogarty) has always been an independent thinker, and he has encouraged independent thinking.”

She describes her husband as a “quiet maverick.”  Rob Owen is general counsel for the La Vista laboratory-products company Streck.

Her passion is to share with UNO students what being a Maverick means.

She cites the university’s marketing mantra:  “We are independent thinkers. Explorers. Risk takers. We are willing to go against the grain; ask the hard questions; and look at challenges in a different way. We collaborate. We serve. We represent. We grow. We are doing things that people said would never happen. We are loud. We are proud. We are Mavericks!”

Visit unomaha.edu to learn more.

Chuck Roberts

October 1, 2015 by

Chuck Roberts blew into Omaha the same day as the May 6, 1975, tornado that spread death and destruction. Covering the infamous storm was the newsman’s introduction to his new job as a KMTV reporter/anchor.

“We were wall to wall on that story for a couple of weeks working 12 hours a day,” he recalls.

Viewers may remember Roberts anchoring Today Show cut-ins and noon news. Later he was promoted to weeknight news co-anchoring with Jeff Jordan.

KMTV news director Mark Gautier, who hired him, had a good eye for talent.  Gautier also hired Tom Brokaw, who went on to a national stage with NBC News.  Roberts also ended up with a much wider audience after seven years in Omaha.

It started when Ted Turner took a liking to Roberts. The media mogul was launching the country’s first 24-hour cable news station, CNN2, which was renamed CNN Headline News one year later.

Turner sent scouts across the country to find talent to anchor his news. They found Roberts in Omaha. “They told me ‘Ted fancies you,’” Roberts explains, “and that I was a finalist. They said: ‘Can’t offer you a contract. Can’t pay what you’re making now,’” says Roberts of his soon-to-be pay cut.

He packed up a U-Haul and drove 1,000 miles to Atlanta and a new life.

Roberts became the first anchor on the first 24-hour national news network and his was the first face seen on camera when the station went live. The paint was still wet on the CNN set when the cameras rolled.

“We were told our job was threefold: look plausible, stay sober, and read the lines you’re given. Those were our marching orders.”

Roberts anchored four-hour weekday newscasts on CNN Headline News. He also was CNN’s election anchor. “I would drive to the Birmingham (Alabama) library and isolate myself and prep for election night. Election night 2000 was the most memorable. Went on the air at 6 p.m. and off air at 7 a.m.” the following morning.

In 2010, Roberts left CNN and an international television audience of 160 million viewers. After 28 years, he was the longest-serving anchor among all the CNN networks. He then spent three years carrying out media training sessions in eight provinces in China for his alma mater, the Missouri School of Journalism.

“We so-called experts were sent to teach media training to start up provincial-level news operations,” says Roberts. “It was a slow process. Everything had to be translated.”

The newsman’s enthusiasm for a broadcast career began near a Nebraska farm his family owned. “There was a radio station in the basement of a hotel in Falls City. I was fascinated by that as a 9-year-old.”

Roberts has high praise for the quality of broadcast news in this city. “Omaha is so much better than its market size and a great place to start a career. I learned my craft in Omaha.”

Because of his many acheivements, Roberts was inducted into the Omaha Press Club Journalists of Excellence Hall of Fame in June.

Chuck-Roberts

Greg Groggel

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Native Omahan Greg Groggel, 29, has always had an adventurous spirit and an ambition to see the world.

As a high school student at Millard West (Class of 2002), Groggel spent a semester as an exchange student in Finland. He went on to attend the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, where he pursued a degree in International Political Economy.

During a college break, he volunteered as a runner for ESPN during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. “Mostly, I carted around athletes to and from the ESPN studio for interviews,” he said. “I had to learn how to drive a stick-shift in 24 hours,” he remembered with a nervous laugh.

Following college, Groggel applied for and won a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which awarded him $25,000 to pursue his proposed project: travel to six former Olympic host cities—Mexico City, Mexico; Sydney, Australia; Seoul, Korea; Sarajevo, Yugoslavia; Munich, Germany; and Bejing, China—over the course of a year to study and document the social, economic, and political ramifications of hosting the Games. The experience taught him to be self-reliant and resourceful. “I spent two months in each city,” he said. “Each time, I was on my own to find my own housing, transportation, my sources…it was challenging.”

“I was Bob Costas’ right-hand man, researching and writing for his prime-time [Olympic] show.”

When NBC Sports learned of Groggel’s ambitious efforts, they offered him a job with the network covering the Beijing Olympics. “I spent about eight months on that job,” he said. In 2009, NBC hired Groggel back for a year to research and conduct pre-interviews with athletes in preparation for their coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. “I was Bob Costas’ right-hand man, researching and writing for his prime-time [Olympic] show,” Groggel added. He served a similar role again for NBC this summer during the Summer Olympic Games in London. He’s been recognized with two Sports Emmy Awards for his work with NBC.

Today, Groggel works for a television production company in New York, producing and developing new television shows for CBS, Bravo, CNBC, and others. “It’s a lot of fun, and very interesting—jumping around, doing field shots, some writing…”

When asked if he’s ever been star-struck either at the Olympics or on the red carpet, Groggel replied, “Just once, really…I was excited to meet Tom Brokaw.” It seems the former KMTV reporter/NBC News anchorman and Groggel had a good bit in common.

“We visited about Omaha mostly.”

One of four kids, Groggel said in his family, venturing far from home is the norm. “I have three sisters. One lives in San Francisco and is a lawyer, one is in grad school, and one just moved to NYC after doing a stint in Togo with the Peace Corp.” Where did the Groggel kids get their wordly ways? “…Our mom, Martha Goedert. She works in the medical profession and goes to Haiti every year to do mission work and act as a midwife,” he shared proudly. Her example is all they needed to fly.