Tag Archives: TV

Pioneers in Media

October 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Eileen Wirth entered the Omaha World-Herald newsroom in 1969 and wondered, “Where are the women?” Unknowingly, she had become one of the newspaper’s first female city reporters.

Dr. Wirth broke through gender barriers again as the first female chair of the journalism department at Creighton University, where she has been a professor since 1991. Her story as a pioneer is mirrored in media throughout Omaha.

Rose Ann Shannon walked into the KMTV newsroom 40 years ago as an intern, looked around for other female reporters, and found none. Today more than half of the journalists at KETV—where she is the station’s first female TV news director—are women. Shannon was a KMTV reporter, photographer, anchor, and assignment editor before joining KETV in 1986.

In 1974, Ann Pedersen became the first full-time female reporter at WOW-TV (now WOWT). One year later, she was named the station’s first female anchor for a daily newscast. She became WOWT assignment editor and later assistant news director before leaving in 1988 for a 13-year career at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis as director of news operations.

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Ann Pedersen

Carol Schrader proved herself as an intern at KMTV before moving on to a full-time job as a reporter at KLNG Radio and, in 1979, at KETV. She became one of the first women to anchor a KETV evening newscast, the first female news director at KFAB Radio, and the first host of the NET program Consider This.

The time was ripe 40 years ago for women to enter what had been a mostly male environment, says Wirth. She wrote about pioneer women journalists across Nebraska in her book From Society Page to Front Page.

“Young men were being drafted into the Vietnam War, so there was a shortage of journalism graduates,” says Wirth, who had three job offers upon graduation. “It was a combination of a good economy and a massive group of young women coming of age in the civil rights environment.”

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Eileen Wirth

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated that employers hire without regard to gender or race. “Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan added the clause banning sex discrimination,” says Wirth. “It was seen as a joke.” Opponents in Congress allowed the clause to go through because they mistakenly thought it would kill the entire civil rights bill. Instead, for the first time in American history, working women had a legal tool.

“The public wanted to see more individuals on air who represented them,” adds Pedersen. “Blacks and women brought new ideas. That’s the great advantage of having a well-integrated newsroom. You get different points of view.”

“I knew I got my job because I was a woman, but I didn’t want to do my job as a woman,” she says. “I wanted to be a journalist.”

“We didn’t mind rattling a few cages,” says Wirth.

Rose Ann Shannon

Rose Ann Shannon

Schrader rattled her first cage as a KMTV intern one night in 1973 by insisting on covering the shooting of a police officer. “I asked them to send me, but they just laughed. I told them, ‘I’m off in 20 minutes, and I’m going to drive there anyway.’” They sent her to the hospital with a camera. “I got a check for $10. I’ve never cashed it.”

She challenged the status quo again when she got into a verbal battle with Mayor Bob Cunningham in 1977 at a news conference she covered for KLNG Radio. She held her own. Two days later, KETV called to ask if she wanted to be the station’s “weather girl” and a reporter.

“I think we rattled cages just by being there,” says Pedersen, who remembers insisting on receiving the same camera the male reporters got. “You did have to stand up 
for yourself.”

When Pedersen arrived at WCCO-TV, she learned that the general manager would not pay her more than he paid his executive assistant. “But in the end, I was paid on par with other news managers,” she says.

Discrimination came more from the audience than from her supportive male co-workers, says Shannon. “Viewers didn’t like our voices. They said, ‘You’re taking a man’s job.’ There were times when I felt I had to work harder, longer, smarter because I had something to prove.”

Women brought story ideas into the newsroom that the male reporters had ignored, Schrader notes. “[We] were raising issues that were newsworthy but were not on the radar for men.”

Pedersen is now a public relations director in Omaha. Schrader is a real estate agent. Wirth is creating a new generation of journalists at Creighton University. Still at KETV, Shannon has seen big changes during her career. “I tell people I’m as excited about doing news today as when I walked in the door 40 years ago.”

Author Judy Horan began her career at WOWT at about the same time as the women profiled here, becoming the first woman in management in Omaha television.

Jim Flowers

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Dapper Jim Flowers, with his trademark moustache and buttonhole flower, is a fixture in people’s lives after 31 years as an Omaha television meteorologist. This husband and father of two has invested himself in the community as a public speaker, Knights of Columbus volunteer, and churchgoer. He and his wife, Barb, are members of Mary Our Queen parish.

It all made the ugly rumors that surfaced about him after WOWT did not renew his contract last December more unsettling. With Flowers suddenly off the air and no official word from station management explaining his absence (due to contractual reasons), anonymous social media speculation filled the information void. The chatter was mostly innocuous, but some alleged Flowers had been caught in a 2012 FBI sting operation targeting a local massage parlor fronting for a prostitution ring. It’s not the image a public figure like Flowers can afford, especially when looking for a new job.

Flowers, who flatly denies involvement in any illegal activity, believes a parlor client used his name when procuring sexual services. Unfortunately, Flowers found his good name sullied when the sting broke.

“…in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility…just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

Despite the cloud, Flowers landed at KMTV. He debuted there June 3 as part of a long-term contract he reached with the station, thus making him perhaps the only on-camera talent to have worked at each of Omaha’s three major network affiliates.

The Ohio native and Penn State University grad came to Omaha in 1982 to work at KETV from a TV weathercaster post in South Carolina. After 10 years, he moved to WOWT. He was there 20 years, the last several as chief meteorologist.

He says he and his wife found Omaha to be “a great place to raise kids.” Even though their boys are now men, he says all the roots he and Barb put down here and all the relationships they built here make it a hard place to shake.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

But in the wake of what happened over the winter, he seriously considered moving to another market.

With his exit from WOWT fueling the gossip mill, he posted Facebook and TVSpy responses that reflected his resolve to lay the tittle tattle to rest.

“…I have never been involved in a massage parlor prostitution investigation. I have not been arrested, questioned, or told by the authorities that I am a suspect [a statement confirmed by Omaha Magazine with Omaha Police Department public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney]…those lies have been very hurtful to me, my wife of 34 years, and our family…I appreciate the loyalty of the many fans who have continued to support me, and I want to assure them that there is nothing behind those rumors.”

He more extensively addressed the situation in June 3rd guest spots on the Todd-N-Tyler radio show and KM3’s own, The Morning Blend.

“Doing that interview with Todd-N-Tyler literally put an end to it,” he says.

But when the rumors were still fresh, they stung. “When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing. Some folks want to bring people down, for whatever reason. It’s the human psyche.”

“When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing.”

His initial reaction was to get mad.

“The first thing you feel is anger because you know you’re not a part of it. That’s what’s frustrating. It had an effect more on my wife and my family, especially my two boys. My two boys were angry…They wanted to find out who used my name, how the stuff got out there.”

His wife has had his back the whole way. She offered this statement about the rumors: “I knew it wasn’t true. It was hurtful to me and my family to think that people would believe those rumors about Jim. I would like to thank those that supported us with positive comments.”

Flowers, an outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, and chasing storms, isn’t the type to run scared, but there was little he could do about this.

He gained insight into how his name got dragged into the mud when he contacted authorities, none of whom could speak to the specific case, then active in the judicial system. However, they did lay out a likely scenario.

“I was told by the Omaha Police Department’s public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney that, in general, this is the way it works. The guys that go [to massage parlors] wind up on a list. They don’t use anything that will identify themselves. They don’t use credit cards, they don’t use checkbooks, and they don’t use their real names. She said, ‘Obviously, someone decided to use your name and guess what, now you’re a part of it.’ I said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and she said ‘no.’”

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He says the local FBI office and U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp confirmed the same.

Unfortunately for Flowers, someone used his familiar name. It comes with the territory of being a
public figure.

“Our exposure to this kind thing is not unusual, but this form and how it took off seemed to have a life of its own,” he says. “The constraints that exist for print, television, and radio don’t exist for social media. There are no checks and balances out there. So if there’s a lesson, it’s that, in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

He’s satisfied with how he’s managed the incident. “You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out. The night before I went on The Blend and Todd-N-Tyler, I told my wife, ‘I’m starting tomorrow [on KM3], and I feel really excited about it. There’s all these opportunities. But the one thing that’s still out there is this whole rumor thing. I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

He says he and Barb put their “very strong faith in God” that this bad dream would disappear. “I’ve had people compliment me and say you handled it professionally.”

KMTV General Manager Chris Sehring is pleased how it all worked out, too. “Jim’s a great guy, and we are thrilled to finally have him on our KMTV Weather Alert team.”

“You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out…I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

Though Sehring couldn’t comment on what steps the station took or on how much the incident played in its hiring decision, he did say, “Journal Broadcast Group is second to none in its commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards. I still believe we live in a society where one is innocent until proven guilty…It’s truly a shame Jim and his family have had to endure these unsubstantiated rumors and malicious speculation. After all, it could happen to any of us.”

Both Sehring and Flowers are focused on making KM3, currently in last place in the ratings, number one. Flowers helped bring both KETV and WOWT to the top spot and feels confident he can work magic a third time.

“I’ve been down this road before. I know what it takes to win,” says Flowers. “Whoever wins weather in Omaha wins the ratings; that’s what it boils down to. You can ask every general manager, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s not only in Omaha; it’s in a lot of weather-sensitive markets. I didn’t decide that, the public did.”

He feels his experience and attention to detail set him apart from other weathercasters in this market.

So do his fishing skills. Once a competitive bass tournament champion, he takes his boat and fishing gear out these days purely for relaxation. With the rumors behind him, he’s forecasting nothing but clear skies and calm waters ahead.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Obsessed With the Dress

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Listen up, drama queens…A new TV reality show, Obsessed With the Dress, airs this summer and takes place right here in Omaha. The location for the show, Winning Crown Boutique in Rockbrook Village, is a dress shop that specializes in pageant wear.

This show will not be just another Say Yes to the Dress, show promoters say. Viewers can anticipate seeing the inner workings of the boutique and learn the background stories and successes of clients, as the show follows each girl through to the end of her pageant. But don’t fear—the show will undoubtedly serve up a heavy dose of drama, much like its bridal show predecessor.

Michele Strom, Mrs. Nebraska 2007 and owner of the boutique, got the idea for Winning Crown while preparing to compete in the Mrs. America pageant. When she couldn’t find a local venue to buy a dress, the entrepreneur-at-heart recognized a retail niche that needed filling and started a dress business out of her home in 2007. She moved the business to the Rockbrook location in early 2009.

Strom says she has no formal background in design. “I just have a unique eye for being creative and an ability to visualize what will look good [on a client]. I missed my calling at an early age, but it’s snowballed into this amazing opportunity to find something later in life that I am really passionate about.”20130404_bs_9891_web

The business has been such a success that Pie Town Productions in North Hollywood contacted Strom about her store being the location for Obsessed With the Dress, which airs nationally this summer on WE Networks.

“Our development team reached out to dozens of such shops across the country,” says Jennifer Davidson, an executive producer at Pie Town Productions. “But when we found Michele Strom and her team at The Winning Crown in Omaha, it was obvious that we had a show here.”

There are two types of drama that unfold on Obsessed With the Dress, Davidson says. “The girls and women shopping for gowns are relentlessly competitive and fascinating. But the staff gets into even more crazy drama. There is a villain at the shop, and he is gunning for the manager’s job. These office politics are off the hook!”

Strom’s staff includes Beau Olson, manager, who has a keen eye for fashion; Frances Nefsky, a graphic designer and creative mind; and Sarah Summers, an expert on all things pageant. “When it comes to pageants, we dress girls to win. I drill that into the minds of my staff and clients. I am not here to get [them] second place,” says Strom.

“When it comes to pageants, we dress girls to win. I drill that into the minds of my staff and clients. I am not here to get [them] second place.” – Michele Strom, owner of Winning Crown Boutique

“Because we have an hour per episode to tell our stories, we get to take a deeper look at the personalities behind the scenes at the shop, who are equally as fascinating as Michele’s customers,” adds Davidson. “Most of Michele’s salespeople are pageant winners themselves, [while] some are not and have their own agendas. Let’s just say that old pageant rivalries never die!”

Strom promises that the girls in the show are the real deal. “These girls come into [the store] for their dresses…They are all our clients and not manufactured [characters].”

Strom wants to bring awareness to not only what her store does, but also to debunk the negative pageant image. “There have been some shows in the past that have been negative, and I want people to see the positive side of these women. These girls are really smart and do a lot for our community. And it’s not just about the dress; it is about making my clients the best they can be.”

Winning Crown accepts drop-ins, but coaching and one-on-one time with Strom requires an appointment. Check out this unique business right here in Rockbrook Village, and tune into the Obsessed With the Dress premiere Aug. 2. Check wetv.com for show air-times.

UPDATE: The show now premieres July 27 at 8 p.m.

OnTrack, Inc.

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you’ve ever found yourself singing “Pepper, Pepper, Pepperjax Grill,” or “You’ll like it…Kelly’s Carpet,” or “It pays to cross the bridge…Lake Manawa Kia,” Johnny Ray Gomez IV is the man largely responsible. He created these jingles, along with dozens and dozens of others, and it’s only a facet of what he does as the owner, president, and creative director of OnTrack.

Gomez rattles off a long list of OnTrack’s offerings: “We’re an audio post-production facility. We do original music jingles for radio, television, web, and multimedia. I do demos for singers and musicians. I do audio for video. We do ADR [Additional or Automated Dialogue Recording for TV and movies]. We do sound design, sound effects, a lot of voiceover work.”

Gomez manages all of this from his 3,200-square foot facility near 118th and Harrison streets in Omaha. “We have a main studio, one smaller studio, and what I call the composing suite. We have the latest computers with music software, industry standard. And we also have the capability to link up to studios worldwide, which basically brings anybody to your doorstep with the touch of a button,” he adds proudly.

This technical capability means Gomez works with clients from all over the country.

“Just last October, [actor and Saturday Night Live alum] Will Forte was in town working on the new Nebraska movie with Alexander Payne. He was in Norfolk filming for a month and doing a sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, so we actually recorded all of his voice animation parts here,” he says. “For three years, we did work for Teen Mom with Farrah Abraham. Instead of MTV flying her to New York, they just brought her here to OnTrack.” He adds that even YouTube sensation and Columbus, Neb., native Lucas Cruikshank recorded dialog as Fred Figglehorn for Nickelodeon’s Fred: The Movie.

“When I first started I did spec work, where you just pick a client and write a jingle [without] having it sold. I just kept going and started networking with ad agencies.” – Johnny Ray Gomez IV, owner

If Gomez seems rather casual about these brushes with fame, it’s because he’s met and worked with lots of well-known names in the music industry over the years, from Marvin Hamlisch and Bo Diddley to Peter Noone and Reba McEntire. A third-generation musician and master of multiple instruments, Gomez actually cut his teeth on the other side of the business. His father was a prolific regional performer who first brought his namesake onstage at age 3 as part of a family revue and later, to sometimes collaborate with nationally known singers and musicians.

“Back in the ’70s, my dad and brother and I had publicity shots with the ruffles and tuxes,” Gomez says, grinning at the memory. “We also had one where we kind of had the Elvis look…the jumpsuits.”

Gomez left home after high school at 17 and traveled the world for four years as the music director and pianist for The Platters, one of the most successful vocal groups of the ’60s.

“I got tired of being on the road. I literally lived out of a suitcase for five years. I knew I wanted to be in music, but I didn’t want to travel,” he says, explaining his impetus for starting a recording studio in his hometown and getting into the jingle business.

“When I first started I did spec work, where you just pick a client and write a jingle [without] having it sold,” he recalls. He sold his very first jingle to Camelot Cleaners and landed his second for Idelman Telemarketing. One of his early works, for Garden Café, ran for 12 years. “I just kept going and started networking with ad agencies.”

OnTrack is a one-man show, but Gomez says the connections and partnerships he’s developed over the years make it possible to offer a wide spectrum of services to his clients. “Even with the workflow I have, I’ve been able to do everything by using all of the resources I have.”

What lessons has Gomez learned in his decades in the biz? “Have a good quality product and do what you do well. And surround myself with people who also do what they do well.”

Bringing Community Responsibility to Life

Pythons. Hooded Pitahuis. Pygmy Marmosets.

Omaha is known by many across the nation because of Wild Kingdom, Mutual of Omaha’s primetime television show that brought animals to life in our living rooms.

But the show’s impact has been more profound for us (Omahans) than it has ecologically speaking. We identify with and claim the show’s reputation as our own. We feel community pride because, after all, it’s Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This pride generates a strong sense of community responsibility. So maybe not coincidentally, community responsibility is accepted as one of the five Omaha City Values.

Wild Kingdom is one of the coolest examples in Omaha of what is called “traditional philanthropy.” This kind of philanthropy refers to the age-old practice of companies making cash donations or in-kind contributions to worthy causes. Most companies participate in traditional philanthropy because of their sincere desire to be involved in their communities and/or to give something back. Traditional philanthropy promotes reciprocity that produces important business benefits, including increased customer loyalty, higher employee retention, and enhanced corporate reputation.

As compared to traditional philanthropy, strategic philanthropy is a concept that has grown in prominence since the 1990s. This kind of charity involves a process where companies align their community relations initiatives with their core business products and services. Instead of a Wild Kingdom animal television show sponsored by an insurance firm (What’s the connection there?), corporations donate to specific community projects that align with their core competencies. For example, ConAgra does strategic philanthropy by focusing its charity on food and hunger issues, like Kids Cafés.

Some organizations are finding ways to impact their communities through employee engagement practices. Firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) recognize that young professionals crave choice. So they’ve created an innovative program for performance incentives that offers a choice to support a cause in their name. Every staff member gets to choose how they receive their incentive—cash, a charity match, a tech package, or a gift card. This is an ingenious way to bring community responsibility to life.

At the furthest end of the community responsibility spectrum are social enterprises. These organizations flip the capitalist model on its head. Maximizing profits is no longer the purpose of these businesses. Profit is a means to a broader end of enhancing the well-being of the community. Nonprofits, as well as for-profits like Herman Miller, Grameen, and PlanetReuse, are bringing community responsibility to life in this way. Their employees and clients are supporting their model with extreme loyalty.

From traditional philanthropy to social enterprise, we challenge Omaha businesses to continue to enjoy the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that come from bringing community responsibility to life. And don’t forget—a sense of community responsibility starts with our kids. One of the ways the Business Ethics Alliance has promoted this is with our team of moral superheroes who live in the Itty Bitty City at the Omaha Children’s Museum. Take your kids to the museum and kick-start their sense of community responsibility by spending time with superhero Reese.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance and Chair of Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University’s College of Business.

Adam DeVine

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Avalon Management

In Workaholics, the Comedy Central sitcom hit about three roommates/co-workers at a California telemarketing firm, actor Adam DeVine plays an immature, self-absorbed, funny 20-something without any direction. In real life, the former Omahan and Millard South grad, now living in L.A., seems much more motivated and mature than his character, though he’s definitely still after the laughs. Humor has gotten him through some tough times, as well as helped him with “the ladies.”

Just before entering middle school in 1995, DeVine was hit by a cement truck at Harrison and 144th streets, suffering severe injuries. “[Recovery] was tough…But I found out that if I was funny, girls would push me in my wheelchair to my next class. BOSS MOVES,” he jokes.

Later, while attending high school at MSHS (“Go Patriots!”), DeVine struggled with rejection in sports. “I wasn’t crazy-athletic. I tried out for the basketball team every year [and didn’t make it.] By senior year, the coach told me not to bother. I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny,” he says.

So DeVine threw himself into school activities like drama and student council, which allowed him to express his humorous side. As his performance and comedy skills grew, so did his ambitions. His drama teacher, Robin Baker, was instrumental in convincing DeVine’s parents to let him follow his dream to move to California to pursue an entertainment career. “She didn’t blink an eye and told my mom that it was a great idea and that she thought I had the chops to make it,” he remembers. “And she’s always encouraged me to write my own stuff and create my own content. Big ups, Mrs. Baker!”

 “I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny.”

One of DeVine’s big breaks was a national TV commercial for Taco Bell. “I came back to Omaha while it was airing, and I thought I was a superstar,” he says, laughing. More recently, he landed a small supporting role in the box-office hit Pitch Perfect, which garnered him a new league of female fans. (DeVine has to be happy about that.)

Landing Workaholics, however, which has been picked up for two more seasons, has definitely been his biggest role to date. And DeVine feels very lucky for it.

“The creative freedom I have on Workaholics is amazing,” he says. “I want to keep writing my own stuff, and I’ve been told it’s really hard to have this kind of freedom.”

DeVine, who comes back to Nebraska regularly to see friends and family (and occasionally catch a Husker game and grab a Runza, he says), is currently at work on a stand-up comedy/sketch hybrid show called House Party, also for Comedy Central. He and fellow Workaholics actors have written a movie as well, for which comedic actor Seth Rogen has signed on as a producer. “I couldn’t be more psyched. Seth is a great guy to learn from because he’s about my age, and he’s been through it all.”

When asked if there’s any downside to a booming career and fame, he answers, “Finding time to have a life and not working all the time…It’s good to stop, kiss my girlfriend, and call my mom every once in a while.

“Oh, and fake friends…Ya know, the people who would never be friends with me in a million years are suddenly like ‘Bro! What are you doing tonight?’” to which he typically responds, “Nothing with you, dude…I won’t fit in with your crew…I don’t have a fedora or a bedazzled shirt.”

Per usual, DeVine goes for the laugh.

A Pet’s Paradise

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When many people think of pet boarding, they envision a city of kennels resembling a prison housing dozens of bored, cramped pets. But these days, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A growing number of pet care facilities now offer posh boarding accommodations, as well as a slew of activities and playtime options for your furry friends. Whether it be for a week-long stay or daily daycare, these pet hotels and spas provide your animal fun interaction with other four-legged friends and caring staff members who will pamper your pet just as you would. So while you and your family are vacationing this summer, don’t fret; the family pet can be taking a “vacay” all its own.

Three of the most well-known independent pet hotels and spas in the Omaha area include Cottonwood Pet Resort, Bark Avenue Grooming and Dog Daycare, and The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

Guests at the The Paw Spa Pet Resort take a refreshing dip in a bone-shaped pool.

Guests at the The Paw Spa Pet Resort take a refreshing dip in a bone-shaped pool.

Cottonwood Pet Resort in Waterloo sits on 11 acres of land with a 10,000-square- foot indoor area. Family-owned by the Dvorak family since 1992, Cottonwood works much like a hotel—pets check in and check out of pet suites, which vary in size from modest to quite roomy. All dog accommodations provide sheepskin rugs for bedding and outdoor access to exercise yards. Some suites, like the Cabana, offer private access to an outdoor patio and include TVs tuned to the Animal Planet channel.

Cottonwood also offers a dedicated area for cats—completely separate from the dogs—where feline friends can either lounge in their individual suites or romp with other cats in the playroom. Cat areas are equipped with climbing options and perches, as well as TVs and music. Cottonwood also boards exotic pets, such as rabbits, parrots, guinea pigs, and turtles.

With 43 years in the pet grooming industry, Sue Wilke was one of the first to offer doggie daycare services in Omaha. Nine years ago, she went to Washington, D.C., to learn about dog daycare because there were very few in Omaha at the time. Today, she owns two Bark Avenue locations in town: the original location at 156th & Maple streets, which specializes in daycare and grooming; and a second at 137th and C streets, which provides long stays and boarding. The business provides complimentary transportation between its two locations for the customer’s convenience.

Camera-shy cats hide in the playroom at The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

Camera-shy cats hide in the playroom at The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

While visiting Bark Avenue’s C Street location, canine guests can play all day with others their own size in three different indoor playrooms or lounge in individual suites. Suites range in size from 5×5-ft. to 8×8-ft. and feature laminate walls and glass doors and fronts, which allow easy visibility and enhance cleanliness. Multi-dog suites are available if your pet has “brothers and sisters” you’d like them to stay with. The new facility also features a 2,000-sq.ft. secure, fenced outdoor area. Dogs are taken outside eight times daily for a minimum of 20 minutes each visit. Daycare playtime with staff is also available upon request.

Wilke says her business strives for socialization and minimal stress for its guests. “We want the pets’ experience to be as close to home as possible. We just want what’s best for the dog.”

The Paw Spa Pet Resort is the newest pet spa and hotel in Omaha. The facility specializes in overnights, daycare, and grooming of pets and features a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled air-circulation system, which helps to prevent airborne illnesses. The Paw Spa offers brightly colored, 9×9-ft. suites that come equipped with TVs and Kuranda beds, which are slightly elevated and chew-proof. Owners are encouraged to bring toys, blankets, or anything else that may make their pet feel more at home to leave in the suite.

Kevin Irish and Sheila Kusmierski in a play area at the resort.

Irish and Kusmierski in a play area at the resort.

Co-owner Kevin Irish says, “We’re animal lovers. We have three dogs and a cat,” who hang out with the animal guests to promote socialization. “I always wanted to be a vet,” he says, “and this is my second shot at a career with animals.

The Paw Spa also features a 1,000-sq.ft. indoor doggie play area for exercise and mingling, complete with palm trees, toys, and a special turf that guarantees cleanliness for animal guests. Next door is a second enclosed area for the swimmers, where canine guests can take a refreshing dip in the bone-shaped, 85-degree indoor pool (no deeper than two feet deep for safety). “We have hip-waders for the little guys,” explains Irish. “This lets them learn to swim in a controlled environment.”

Both play areas are constantly supervised by staff and are equipped with cameras so pet owners can view their animals from home or while on the road. Paw Spa’s Kitty City provides cats with condos that have separate compartments for food and bathroom breaks, and even a digital aquarium for entertainment. Cats can also hang out and climb the large, indoor structure in the Catio.

All three pet spas provide personalized attention, 24-hour monitoring by staff, on-call veterinarians, and frequent potty and playtime breaks. With accommodations like these, your beloved Fido or Fluffy will definitely be in good hands while you enjoy your summer vacation guilt-free.

What’s All the Hoopla About Hulu?

February 25, 2013 by

Just to set the stage in the simplest of terms: Hulu is streaming TV (and a movie service with original content, but put this part aside for a minute). News Corp. and NBCUniversal started Hulu as internet video in 2007 as a single website offering the previous night’s episode of The Simpsons. From those humble yet visionary beginnings, the service has grown dramatically. This year, it’s on pace to exceed $600 million in revenue. Most of Hulu’s 25 million unique visitors access Hulu for free, but more than 2 million willingly pay $7.99 a month to access Hulu’s full library of programs from all six major broadcast networks and more than 400 content providers. That’s a reported 5,482 TV series and film titles, 181,020 videos, and more.

Put in even simpler terms, Hulu is TV—just watched differently by time-crunched, multi-screen viewers. And this is where the traditional businessperson who wants to reach people has to put her head. Not-so-traditional marketers are adding Hulu to media plans to supplement the reach of TV gained the traditional way via network, cable, and spot schedules.

Hulu serves up ads to both free access and paying viewers. Before the requested program streams, ads are served up for view. Users show tolerance for ads and are even asked if the ads are “relevant” to them. If they are, they may get an ad of similar relevance served up that they can sit through or skip. According to ComSource.com July 2012 online video rankings, Hulu leads the way serving 46.4 ads per viewer per month. Hulu says 96 percent of those ads are watched in full. Average age of viewer: 38, skewing younger and about even male/female.

The young digital natives likely made it what it is today, but the user demos are expanding in age and showing a solid $85,000 average household income with 33 percent over $100,000. That’s why Hulu’s roster of more than 1,000 advertisers is growing, too, including national brands Geico and Toyota.

Don’t misunderstand: Network and cable TV are nowhere near dead. But viewership is down 12.5 percent since Hulu’s launch and 3.6 million U.S. residents have abandoned pay-TV for internet video in the last five years. Ask the people under 30 in your office if they even own a TV…

Hulu is one way to reach the multi-screen, time-shifted viewer. And at just four minutes of ads served up pre-program streaming vs. average eight minutes of ads on commercial breaks on network TV, Hulu brags that general, brand, and message recall plus likability are all higher among their viewers. Not bad attributes once you can get your head around “Hulu is TV.”

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.

Brandi Petersen

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up in Papillion, Brandi Petersen didn’t dream of becoming a television news anchor; she was interested in theatre and speech, and entered college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln intending to study drama. But she quickly realized that a future in musical theatre was “not meant to be.” A class on the history of broadcasting inspired her passion for broadcast journalism, and after she switched majors, Petersen sought an internship at KETV in 2001 simply because her family had always watched that station’s newscasts.

“Our joke is that I kind of hung around long enough until I got a job; I just wouldn’t leave,” she says. “I had three internships and got very lucky that they took a chance on an intern…and it worked out very well for me.”

Petersen became a full-fledged reporter in 2003 and an anchor three years later. She says she has found many role models and even friends at KETV through the years, from the reporters who let her tag along on assignment during her earliest days as an intern to her current colleagues on both sides of the camera.

“People ask if we really get along that well,” Petersen says. “We’re very much like a family, and that sounds so cheesy, but all of our reporters and anchors and team members, we really bond very, very well.”

“We live here with you; we’re your neighbors. And we’re kind of the microphone for what you want to say.”

Her career highlights include interviewing President Obama (“It was really an experience having security sweep through twice and snipers on the roof of the building behind us,” she recalls) and Warren Buffett, and she was on-air during notable events such as the 2007 Westroads shooting and the 2008 tornado at Little Sioux Scout Ranch in western Iowa. Petersen says she credits not only experience, but also her high school drama training with helping her maintain composure on camera, and although she spends most of her time behind the news desk, she still enjoys reporting from the field.

“The great thing about this job is that you get to see and interview so many people,” she says. “Reporting is our first love. We’re storytellers.”

Petersen says she’s become accustomed to being recognized wherever she goes—“Are you the news girl?” is a common greeting often followed by, “You’re a lot taller than I thought you’d be!”—but she says people are nearly invariably nice to her when they meet her in public, and she strives to be polite and friendly in return.

“As an on-air journalist, you do need to remember that you’re in the public eye,” she says. “I don’t want to let people down.”

Petersen, whose son Easton was born in 2011, says the unusual work schedule associated with live evening broadcasts has meshed nicely with motherhood, especially since her husband, Brian Paul, a high school coach, works traditional hours. Easton smiles and claps when he sees her on TV, she reports, but adds with a laugh, “He does the same thing for Bill Randby and Jeremy Maskel.”

Petersen has watched broadcast journalism evolve to be more immediate and interactive with coverage available around the clock and through multiple means. But she says one thing hasn’t changed: she still loves her job.

“It’s great to work in the market where I grew up,” she says. “I think we’ve really built a reputation with our station…that we’re good, kind people. I hope that people pick up on that. We live here with you; we’re your neighbors. And we’re kind of the microphone for what you want to say.”