Tag Archives: President Obama

Lord Acton Said it Best

August 14, 2015 by

This article appears in July/August 2015 60-Plus.

I’ve never owned a video camera of any kind. Okay, so I’ve just been reminded that my cell phone gizmo has such a device, but having never used it I still qualify as a video virgin.

Sony introduced the first consumer camcorder in 1983, the year my youngest child was born. This made our family a prime target for being an early adapter in what became something of a video mania. Almost overnight a populist paparazzi were born where every dad (Why was it always the dads?) at every kindergarten holiday program was armed with a cinder-block-sized camera that instantly made him some kind of Fellini wanna-be.

I refused to join the Betamax Age because my makeup is one where I want to remember things the way I want to remember things—not necessarily how they actually happened.

Ample video of my kids’ childhood years exists from the cameras of extended family members, and a couple of clan get-togethers have been marred when some idiot got the bright idea that we should all watch old videos together. I’m sure any good shrink would have a field day getting inside my head, but the experience of viewing those picnics and parties and plays unfold on screen was…well, “disturbing” is not at all too powerful a word.

It’s not that I am a dispassionate stoic. For whatever weird reason, being confronted with a filmed retelling of events rearranges my mental furniture in an unsettling, almost visceral way.

That tyranny of memory has only grown over the years, and we’ve all witnessed the rise of the camera-obsessed malady I’ll call the Fear of Missing Out Syndrome. In a sickness typified by living vicariously through a viewfinder, it’s as if film, and only film, is capable of proving, even to ourselves, the existential reality of a person, place, or thing.

“I saw Pope Francis!” “I saw President Obama!” “I saw Garth Brooks!” people exclaim.

No, you didn’t. You saw only mere pixels while struggling to center a celebrity’s image on your camera. You had exactly the same experience I had when I saw almost identical footage on CNN or the local news, except that my experience was better in that it was rendered by seasoned videographers on professional equipment. You were there, but you weren’t there.

Just check out the June 15 Sports Illustrated cover online. Get my point?

Our society has become one of dim imaginations reflected in the even dimmer glows of electronic gadgets.

As some dude named Lord Acton once claimed, “History is not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul.” I kinda dig that Lord Acton guy, even if his name sounds like a super-classy moniker for a faux-British-bad-guy rassler on WWE.

At least according to his lordship, I don’t have an almost pathological relationship with memory. I have an illuminated soul.


Not Funny

June 1, 2015 by

This column was printed in the 2015 May/June issue of Omaha Magazine.

It says right there in an old bio I sent out years ago, “I was once Paul Newman’s bodyguard.”

Okay, I lied.

Or, did I?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell. I mean we start out lying at such an early age. I’ve seen studies where scientists have discovered that spreading deliberate falsehoods is in our DNA.

Or did they?

Maybe I’m exaggerating what they discovered. Maybe I just saw it on Facebook—where I also discovered yesterday that President Obama binge watches Overhaulin’ originally from The Learning Channel.

Which brings up a salient point—if TLC and The Learning Channel run shows like 19 Kids and Counting, Sister Wives, and Love, Lust, or Run, then is it a lie to call themselves The “Learning” Channel? Maybe they’re truthful. Maybe I should learn from them, even if the lessons taught are at times contradictory and always impractical.

Do we lie because it’s in our nature, or is it nurture? My mom used to tell us kids that if we ate the crusts of our PB&J sandwiches we’d be able to whistle. Now, since I was the only one of my siblings who could ever whistle, did my mom lie to the brother and sisters? They turned out to be bigger liars than I did. Maybe it was the way they were brought up.

I learned to be honest at my father’s knee. My dad once told me, “There are only three things you should never lie about; love, dinnertime, and taxes.” Though he also offered an addendum, “Pay your accountant to lie about the taxes.”

Lying is everywhere.

And the media, well the airwaves and lies go together like chemicals and life. One is not possible without the other. Brian Williams is a liar. That’s what I’ve been told. He lied about his helicopter being shot down in Iraq. NBC suspended him without pay for six months. So, he’s out about $5 million, not counting the side money he made as my stand-in for my L.L. Bean catalogue modeling assignments.

Bill O’Reilly is a liar, though there isn’t enough space here to enumerate all of the falsehoods he’s likely guilty of spreading. What’s Bill-O’s punishment? Higher ratings. Proving once again that venue is more important that veracity.

Of course, we were all outraged by their lies. We all called talk radio shows to condemn Bill and/or Brian. Who we were most mad at depended on whom we most agreed with. We were so mad some of us posted something on Facebook about how scandalized we were…right under our Photoshopped profile pics.

The irony always escapes us.

So, back to my bio, was I actually Paul Newman’s bodyguard?

You be the judge. In 1968 during the Nebraska Presidential Primary campaign, the movie star himself came to town to speak on behalf of “Clean” Gene McCarthy. The organizers needed “security,” so they recruited some tall college students to show up and form a protective ring around the diminutive star. When the predicable surge of hysterical female fans rushed us, and the station wagon tailgate that Paul stood on so as to be seen, I was terrified. I was petrified. No, I was worse that that…I was shy. Despite the fact that I was touched, grabbed, and groped in ways I had never been before (or since) as I stood between the mob and their prey, our adolescent phalanx held. Paul, who remained true to form “cool,” spoke. No one laid a hand on him…and I could write in my bio:

I was once Paul Newman’s bodyguard.

Go ahead… suspend me.


Brandi Petersen

December 25, 2012 by
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.”