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Young and Beautiful

My first internship at KETV, I was 20 years old and thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from such incredible professionals in a field I someday hoped to join. Three days a week, I worked a nine hour shift, following around amazing reporters like Tom Elser and Trisha Meuret. This was an unpaid internship, so I also worked part-time, waitressing at Charlie’s on the Lake, in addition to my service work and appearances as Miss Douglas County. I worked every single shift I was offered at KETV; any task, around the clock. I don’t regret one second of it and didn’t think anything of then, either – I grew up with two parents who started their own successful businesses and taught me from an early age that if you want something, you work hard for it. They, and each of these experiences, helped shape who I am, opening doors for me as a broadcast professional at an early age in comparison to many of my peers.

This is why I get a smidge frustrated when I hear young adults complaining about not getting paid enough.. needing a job that allows them to ‘still do stuff’.. or expecting privileges, opportunities, and more will just HAPPEN to them because they ‘deserve’ it.

AND GET OFF MY LAWN, said Old Lady Brandi.


On the flip side.. it’s also why I am so excited about, and want to support, young people who show ambition, passion and a strong work ethic. Last Spring, I connected with Omaha’s Beverly Luma, who had started her own company, Lady Beverly Cosmetics. She graciously offered to present all of the 2017 Miss Nebraska contestants and judges with her products, including a special prize package for our new Miss Nebraska. Grand total: Beverly donated more than $2500 in her product to our organization. That is HUGE for a small business! I was already blown away.. and then I met Beverly.



“I really have sensitive skin and have always used topnotch products. However, being a college student in the US, wasn’t being graceful to my savings,” Beverly explained to me. “My sister, who is vegan, also has that problem. We started with lipsticks and eyelashes. We decided to make it official in 2016 by registering our company and getting the right documents when people would compliment us and ask to buy the lipstick we were wearing. Started small scale then expanded since then.”

With the help of her brother, a business graduate; her father, a retired businessman; and her mother, the sisters’ ‘manager’, Beverly’s hobby has expanded across Nebraska and to several other states, all while she completes a healthcare administration degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her own minor in business. Click here to learn more about Lady Beverly Cosmetics!

Guys. She’s 25. She JUST turned the legal age to rent a car. Let that sink in for a minute.

A 14-year old from Alliance, Nebraska is dreaming big early, too.


Chloe Blumanthal was crowned Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen last fall, a goal she’s been focused on for at least five years, if not longer.

“I was ‘special entertainment’ at the 2013 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant. I was 9 years old and I sang ‘Lights’,” Chloe told me recently. “From then on, I was determined to someday compete in that pageant. This system is for the best of the best and I wanted to be part of that.”


Chloe, a student at Alliance High School, says she’s been singing since the age of 2. (“And before that I would hum everything!”) A love of performing has been a constant as far back as she can remember, and her talent was clear to her family and people throughout western Nebraska.

“I was in a move made by Aperture Films about Western Expansion,” said Chloe. “It will open any day now at the museum under the Arch in St. Louis; we filmed it by Chimney Rock in 2015. I [also] won Little Miss titles when I was 9, 10 and 11 years old.”

Chloe notes those awards were just for fun, but even as an elementary student, she understood she could make good things happen.



“I raised over $2000 and donated it all,” said Chloe. “I thought up the fundraisers all on my own. As a Girl Scout, service has been a HUGE part of my life since 1st grade. I’ve earned my Girl Scout Bronze and Silver Awards; that’s over 70 hours of volunteer time. I am currently working on my Gold Award.”

Being Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen aligns right along with Chloe’s service goals. Each titleholder selects a cause they are passionate about and want to promote; Chloe calls her platform ‘Secret Kindness Agents’.


“It’s a movement that shows how a simple act of kindness can change the culture within a school or group and eventually change the world,” said Chloe, inspired by UNO Instructor and award-winning educator Ferial Pearson. “Her positivity, in the darkest of times, has changed my life. I saved up my babysitting money and bought copies of the Secret Kindness Agent book. [When I visit classrooms], I bring a book for each teacher, a small notebook for each child to journal in, and envelopes of Secret Agent assignments. The children brainstorm new assignments, something that costs no money, so everyone has the same impact. Each child also gets assigned a Secret Agent name; they never use their own name or take credit for their assignments. It’s a great feeling to give without reward or recognition.”

But Chloe says she IS rewarded.. through friendships and life skills.


“My friends see my confidence and pride in my accomplishments and know that much of that comes from my time as a titleholder,” said Chloe. “People should care about this program because of the exceptional work the titleholders do to make this state great. Because of the variety of platforms, our titleholders are helping so many different people and touching so many lives for the better.”


Just as her own life has been touched by the women who came before her. The Girl Scout alumni and troop leaders who taught Chloe about female leadership, risk-taking and innovation. The pageant mentors who taught her about making goals, and that trying new things often leads to success. And the women in business like Beverly Luma, inspiring Chloe to dream of going to culinary school and someday, opening her own specialty bakery.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.”

Beverly Luma and Chloe Blumanthal are two young women not waiting for any magical milestone in life to accomplish their goals. Beverly recently shared a quote on social media.. “Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.”

They are women making the world more beautiful by simply dreaming big, and inspiring others through hard work, love for life, and kindness to others. No matter what age, that is something we should all want to be.

Chloe official

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“What a great way to work for something!” said Chloe, who will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April. “I want to show all of Nebraska what I can do and how I am changing the world.”


To follow Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen Chloe Blumanthal on Facebook, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.


The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Lincoln Jessica Shultis

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Whitney Miller

Courage With a Smile

Each of us has a hidden story.. something we don’t openly share with others because it’s embarrassing, something we can’t change, something we wish would just GO AWAY.


I’ve performed the national anthem DOZENS of times in the Omaha area for crowds of a few hundred to 15,000+.  Last fall, I waited off-ice at UNO’s first hockey game of the season, ready to perform once more.  I was running through the lyrics in my head, and about two minutes before I was up… I BLANKED.  I got to a middle stanza in the anthem and could not come up with the words.  In a panic, I googled the lyrics on my phone, just to have them ready in my pocket if my memory didn’t kick back into gear.

It didn’t.  In front of 5,000 fans, I had to pull out my phone in the middle of our country’s anthem and look down for help.  I LOVE MY COUNTRY.  I KNOW THIS SONG.  AND I WAS MORTIFIED.

I still shudder when I think about it… because to anyone who HADN’T heard me sing before, I will forever be the idiot who didn’t know the words to the national anthem.  I’ve only performed the anthem once since then… terrified this could happen again.

Now, an example of COURAGE.  A woman who not only accepts mistakes, she shares them to empower others to shrug their shoulders, learn and move on.

Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson

Though I had interviewed Emma last year during her time as Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, I had never heard her perform.  When she sang at the 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.. this was me in the audience.

Emma won 1st runner up, an honor in large part due to that extraordinary vocal performance.  It’s something she’s quite accustomed to; a senior at North Platte High School, Emma’s earned the lead role in school productions, she’s a member of the NPHS Pacers dance team, and and she’s competed in multiple vocal and dance competitions.  CLICK HERE to read the North Platte Telegraph’s article on Emma when she was crowned in February.

Just this week, Emma shared a clip of her performance as part of a high school music contest.  (CLICK HERE TO WATCH!)  BUT… she also noted on the same post, ‘this was before I forgot the words.’  She wrote: After working for a month, I let myself down when I forgot many of the lyrics due to nerves and poor confidence. I walked away extremely upset with my performance. • I have chosen to take this experience as a lesson. All I can do from here is work harder next time, show up with confidence, and hope that I prove my worth. • Always take each experience as an opportunity to become a better you, no matter the end result. #motivationmonday#missnebraska2017


Emma Wilkinson will turn 18 years old tomorrow.

An amazing display of maturity, acceptance and understanding, the result of a personal journey that Emma bravely speaks about as Miss Twin Rivers 2017.

“My platform, ‘Rethink Your Drink’, is focused on informing children of alcoholic parents that they are not alone,” Emma told me recently, noting alcoholism has touched her family as well.  “Once I reached the fifth grade, I made a best friend with similar experiences to my own.  We shared our struggles and helped each other cope with the pain brought about by alcoholism.  Addiction does not have to debilitate a child’s aptitude to achieve success and I want to spread those words like wildfire, especially to those who need to hear them most.”

Emma class

Emma has visited several schools throughout the North Platte area to share her story, her message carrying extra weight as a local girl who will compete right in her city at this summer’s Miss Nebraska Pageant.  As she told me last year, it was those former Miss Nebraska’s (namely Brittany Jeffers and Becky Smith-Wagner) who greatly impacted her life as she grew up.

“I hope to reach every person when making appearances by sharing the negative effects that alcohol can leave on everyone,” said Emma.  “Children are often informed about alcohol in elementary school, but I feel like they forget about the dangers of alcohol once they are surrounded by it in high school.  This is about spreading awareness of alcoholism in order to make people realize that it is not a rare occurrence.”

Emma is also already taking her title statewide, including a 8-hour roundtrip trek to Omaha to take part in the Miss Nebraska Princess Party fundraiser last month.  Emma and Miss Fur Trade Days Courtney Pelland left North Platte early, met dozens of little girls at the event, and drove BACK to North Platte the same day to take part in a dance team gala the same night.

“The amazing thing about the Miss Nebraska Organization is that it brings together poised, confident and beautiful young women from all over the state to catalyze positive change,” said Emma.  “Whenever I see one of our girls at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital visiting patients, I hold a huge smile on my face because this is what we’re about; making a positive impact within every life we can.”

And that includes their own lives.  Emma notes her own growth within the last year alone, crediting it to her time as both a teen and now miss titleholder.

“My social skills and confidence have improved the most through appearances and performances,” said Emma.  “My main goal is to use my platform as a tool to serve as a mentor to those who are affected by alcoholism, but I also want to continue to grow as a person through this organization.  I am one of the youngest in the pageant this year; I have so much more to learn and I trust this will help me become the best woman I can be.”

Emma with girl

A woman who aims to be warm and open to others.  A woman who is open-minded and remains positive, despite challenges and hurdles she has come across throughout her life.

“I do not judge someone based upon their values and beliefs,” said Emma.  “Everyone has been raised in different ways and has gone through different struggles; it is incredibly important to me that we accept people as they are.”

Someday, I want to sing the anthem again just to prove to myself that I will not let one embarrassing moment define me.  And if I feel those nerves, that fear, bubbling up again… I will remind myself of this amazing young woman, suck it up, smile, and rock every single lyric.  Here’s hoping I make my hometown as proud of Emma Wilkinson is making hers.

“I sometimes get upset when people think that our pageant is all about beauty, but I’ve realized, maybe it is about beauty; the beauty found within,” said Emma.  “Through any circumstance, I try to remain as positive as possible.  Any challenge can be overcome and I like to live through those words within every aspect of my life.”


Click here to follow Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson on Facebook!


CLICK HERE * 2016 * Sister Act

Emma was crowned at Crowns & Gowns 2017, Nebraska’s largest annual prom/pageant showcase.  CLICK HERE for more details about the 2018 pageant and event! For more information about the Miss Twin Rivers/Miss Sandhills Pageant or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.


The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sheridan Blanco

NEXT.. Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2017 Cherokee Purviance

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Good Work

So I’ve mentioned I want to write a book..

So very many of the stories I’ve covered are inspiring, emotional and powerful… often because they reflect something incredibly positive, born out of something terrible and tragic.

January 5, 2011.  I was 8 months pregnant, sluggish and FOREVER late.  That day I was running behind as usual, hoping to stop at Subway on my way to work.  I was at the stoplight at 144th and Q and one, then two, then three Omaha Police cruisers flew past me with lights and sirens blaring.  I called the KETV assignment desk to let them know something was going on, and my managing editor, Jim Reding, responded, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a shooting at Millard South, we need you here right away.’

I immediately turned my car around and sped to KETV as quickly as I could.  Within minutes, I was on the anchor desk and on air, sharing what we knew with our viewers. A young man had walked into the front office and opened fire, shooting two principals.  One of them was dead, another was critically hurt.  The teenager drove a few miles away, then shot and killed himself.


Millard South student Kyler Erickson heard and saw it all.  He hid in a bathroom, called 911, and waited.  No one should be witness to a nightmare like this; Kyler was as a teenager.  Still, he refused to let that horror take him down, despite the nightmares and grief that followed.  With therapy and sheer inner strength, Kyler healed emotionally and grew physically, attending the University of Nebraska Omaha to play Division 1 Basketball.  He began to share his story, meeting with everyone from veterans suffering from PTSD to other students.  This year, Kyler was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team, recognized at the 2016 Final Four tournament, one of only five student athletes nationwide.  This dude is simply AWESOME.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Kyler’s incredible journey from KETV’s Matt Lothrop.

Kyler’s loved ones are among those most proud of this young man, including his longtime friends from Millard South…


..friends who were there in full force at Kyler’s final game with UNO.  The girl in the beige and black sweater is LaRissa McKean.

“He’s so inspiring,” LaRissa told me recently.  She too was at Millard South that day, in AP Economics class.  And much like her friend Kyler, she’s devoted much of her time and focus on simply trying to make the world a better place.


Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The best compliment I received was from a sorority sister.  She anonymously left me a note saying ‘you make people feel good about themselves,'” said LaRissa.  “That statement is what motivates me daily to make an impact on someone’s life.”

I first met LaRissa last summer at the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she left her mark on most, if not all of the audience and her fellow contestants.  This girl is SHEER JOY.. she lights up a room with her smile and personality, and radiates energy and glee the second she steps on stage. LaRissa was also voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.


That beautiful smile shows LaRissa’s inner spirit… but so does THIS.

Hilarious.  Carefree.  So many women in pageants, business and LIFE are afraid to let their guard down, so afraid of what people will think about them.  LaRissa knows who she is and OWNS it.  You can just tell she LOVES life, and everyone around her smiles and lets THEIR guard down because of it.

LaRissa will compete at Miss Nebraska again this year as Miss Gering 2016.  Her personal platform of service is called ‘Feel The Difference: Empowerment Through Communication.’

“[It’s] based on Maya Angelou’s quote, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’  I will leave a legacy where I make people feel inspired and willing to take the act of listening through conversation to better the lives around them.”

LaRissa has all kinds of opportunities to communicate.. the girl is surrounded by people CONSTANTLY.  A University of Kansas graduate specialized in Accounting and Human Resources, LaRissa currently works three jobs; she’s a Head Instructor of summer high school/college dance camps with Universal Dance Association, she’s a full-time educator with Lululemon, and she’s a substitute paraprofessional in the district where she grew up, Millard Public Schools.  She volunteers every week with local 4th graders, helping them catch up on homework and answering questions.  LaRissa also takes part frequently at charity events, doing what she can to help as Miss Gering.

THEN.. there’s dance, a constant in LaRissa’s life for many years.

“I have judged the State Dance Competition for the last three years along with other local high school competitions and college regional competitions for the NAIA Nationals,” said LaRissa, who learned at and competed with Kitty Lee Dance, a place she still practices and volunteers.  “One of my biggest role models was Miss Kitty.  Not only did she instill my love for dance, she taught me to be stronger and never think you can’t improve.  She raised me in the studio and I can’t thank her enough for whacking my leg with a ruler to get my knees straight.  She was the first one to correct me in every dance class but also the first to congratulate me on a performance well done.  Even with her gone, I know she is watching every class and performance, smiling that her passion lives inside of me.”


Talent is LaRissa’s favorite part of the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she plans to combine her love of comedy and dance to present a musical theater piece with ‘an element of surprise’ this year.

“Not only does [talent] set our system apart from others, it is truly beautiful to see all the contestants show their art to the world,” said LaRissa.  “I love watching the contestants light up the floor with their interests and show a piece of themselves to everyone.  The emotion that can be portrayed in 90 seconds gives me goosebumps and really shows the uniqueness of every competitor.”


That’s one of the things LaRissa hopes to share with pageant naysayers.. to learn more about the women who take part before forming an opinion.

“I remember going to pageants as a young girl and telling my mom I couldn’t wait to be as pretty or as talented as the women that compete for Miss Nebraska,” said LaRissa.  “The majority of people who compete are varsity athletes in their schools, Honor Roll recipients, and leaders in their community.  They are some of the most respected people and receive more credit for being mentors to people all across the nation.”


LaRissa adds that every woman she knows who’s taken part in this system has made a difference in someone’s life.. and that she became a leader because of it.  She describes the title of Miss Nebraska as a job she’s applying for that could give her a year of memories she can only imagine.  BUT.. in the swirl of glamour and costumes and performances, LaRissa hasn’t lost focus of her values and priorities; her family, including grandparents Pampy and Nana who she spends several hours with every week.  Education, through both mentoring students and planning ahead to obtain a Masters Degree.  Love, and her love of people.. simply spending time with those who matter most, friends like Kyler Erickson.

No one would have faulted Kyler for never talking about that day again, for withdrawing from everything to process what happened, for moving thousands of miles away from Omaha to escape everything and start fresh.  Instead, this guy confronted his demons, defeated them, then stayed and shared his journey to help others still battling.  LaRissa McKean’s story doesn’t stem from tragedy and horror but is inspiring nonetheless.. a young woman using her gifts and positive attitude to simply do good work in our world.

Loren winkler

Photo courtesy  Loren C Winkler Images

“At the end of the day, I look in the mirror, washing off my makeup and think it would be amazing to be Miss Nebraska 2016, but I would rather be known as LaRissa who became Miss Nebraska because of the person I am,” said LaRissa.  “I’m an honest person, who gives my opinion respectively.  I won’t change my values or morals because of a title, I will continue to grow and live a life I treasure.  At the end of the day, I will still be LaRissa McKean forever.”

I think they call this perspective.  Maybe it’s what she saw Kyler go through.  Maybe it’s been the lesser challenges she, like the rest of us, go through.  No matter where the drive comes from.. imagine what life could be like if we all strived to do good work to help each other, and in turn, found peace and joy within ourselves.

Kyler Erickson is available to speak at events; CLICK HERE for details and to learn more about his story.


Click on each link below to follow Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean

on FACEBOOK and on INSTAGRAM.  You an also email LaRissa for appearances and events at larissamckean@gmail.com.


2015 * Sleepless Beauty

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes by phone at 307-340-0601, or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.com.


The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun!

NEXT.. Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shaniah Freeseman!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Party Like A Journalist

There’s a twitter account I ADORE right now: @JournalistsLike.  The account administrator (I’m not even sure who he/she is!) shares tweets from around the country from journalists, using #PartyLikeAJournalist as our connecting thread.

@SunGriwkowskyC: Wonder if the fact that the election is on Cinco de Mayo will mean newsroom burritos instead of the traditional pizza?

@MissyRileyNews: I probably won’t sleep until Sweeps is over.

@jlivi2: Waiting for calls back like…….


Speaking for my fellow reporters here at KETV.. it is AMAZING how representative this is!!  We ALWAYS have pizza on election night!  Ratings periods, dubbed ‘sweeps’ in TV news, are arguably the most stressful times of our year when we put in extra hours for more in-depth stories.  And waiting for calls.. on deadline.. often FEELS like FOR.EV.ER.

No matter what market you’re working in, where you are at in your career, or what type of beat you cover in news every day, there are things that bind us all together as journalists.  I saw that firsthand Friday night at the Omaha Press Club, honored to present closing remarks at the 2015 OPC Scholarship Awards Dinner, which also recognized this year’s Career Achievement and Journalism Educator Award winners.

I was also at this dinner 12 years ago… as a scholarship recipient.


The recipients of the Mark O. Gautier, Jr. Intern Award.  SIX of us either work or have worked at KETV.

When I applied for this scholarship, I had interned at KETV THREE SEPARATE TIMES; twice in news and once in sports.  I was a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and mentioned to my mentor, the man who hired me and guided me through each of my internships, KETV Assignment Editor Joe Kasmir, that I was applying for the Gautier Award.  Joe suggested I ask KETV News Director Rose Ann Shannon to write me a letter of recommendation.  Thankfully she did, and with her much appreciated support I was honored with this scholarship.  It was the first of many ways Rose Ann offered me a hand when I was a green, wannabe broadcaster, opening a door for me to get into this business with a little extra oomph to push me along.

This is all part of what I shared in my speech Friday night, and I’m sharing it all here on my blog as well with a few hopes; first, that it encourages anyone reading this to consider a donation the Omaha Press Club Scholarship fund, and second, that maybe it connects–that we connect–with aspiring journalists just like I once was.  These awards not only provide a nice financial bonus for students who are often trying to take on unpaid journalism internships in addition to classwork, but it shows them someone out there believes in them.  Someone wants them to succeed.  Someone thinks they’ve got what it takes to be a journalist; to tell good stories, to tell their community what’s going on in the world, and to be trusted that what we are telling them is FACT.  I didn’t think Rose Ann Shannon even knew my name back then; I won that scholarship and thought, ‘hey, maybe she does know who I am.. and maybe she thinks I’m doing a good job.’

Three of this year’s scholarship recipients, one from each university represented, briefly spoke at Friday night’s ceremony.  Mara Klecker has already spent time in Australia and Ecuador, chronicling current events and interning with major outlets like National Geographic.  Scott Prewitt is the editor-in-chief of the Creightonian, even filming, editing and narrating a mini-documentary which debuted at the Omaha Film Festival.  Matthew Barros has been an active contributor to UNO sports radio and spoke with so much enthusiasm and professionalism Friday night, he made US excited to be in the same field as him.  I daresay I speak for many people in that audience as to how excited we are that these students are the future of our business.

Broadcasting is constantly evolving and changing, never more than now.  The world can turn to Twitter, to Facebook, to cable, to text messages and Google searches, but in the end, journalists can provide something no one else can: FACT.  True information.  We are the microphone for the child’s voice who isn’t heard.  We are the siren for the scandal under the radar.  We are clarity when people are confused and need answers.  And we are passing the torch on to people like the 18 students in that room Friday night.  It’s an awesome responsibility, and it’s one hell of a ride.


Photo courtesy Dailykos.com

December 5, 2007 was a day that arguably, no Omaha journalist will ever forget.  We all started very early that day because President Bush was in the city.  By early afternoon, most of us were back in our buildings, formulating presidential visit coverage for our newscasts, websites and papers.  1:00, I was sitting at my desk when the scanners in our newsroom started going crazy; there had been a shooting.  Rose Ann came out of her office and we all heard ‘man down at the bottom of the escalator.’  I will never forget Rose Ann’s reaction in that moment, saying ‘we’ve got to put everything we’ve got on this.’  In those short seconds, I hadn’t even had time to process what dispatchers were saing, yet Rose Ann just KNEW this event was unprecedented.  Her instinct told her this was very, very bad.

Inside Westroads Mall, a teenager had shot and killed nine people, including himself, and wounded four others.  That cold, overcast day right before Christmas became one of the darkest days in Omaha history.

But that’s the thing.  That day was history.  As unthinkable, as tragic, and as terrible as that day was, Omaha journalists chronicled that history.  It’s our job to tell people what is going on.  Thankfully we also cover INCREDIBLE moments; reunions, joyous events that bring us to tears, things that literally seem to be miracles before our eyes.  I’ll never forget covering my first Nebraska football game, standing on the field at Memorial Stadium and literally feeling the adrenaline rise within me as 85,000 fans surrounding me screamed for the Huskers.  Who else, in what job, gets to witness history like journalists?

The other reason I brought this up Friday was because of what Rose Ann showed me that day: instinct.  Sheer listening, feeling, knowing what was a story before anyone else did.  Rose Ann has been in broadcast journalism now for 40 years, and that day, it was like she was still a beat reporter out in the field everyday.  SHE JUST KNEW.

THAT is something within all journalists, something that drives us to want to tell stories, and to tell the rest of the world what is going on.  It’s the common thread that links all of us, from the college student just starting out, to the news veteran with decades under his or her belt.

And all of us were in one room together Friday.  Ironically, as I spoke to these 18 scholarship recipients and their families, I also spoke to Rose Ann, still my News Director, Larry Walklin, my college professor, and arguably the best of the best in Nebraska news.  Rose Ann and Dr. Walklin were honored Friday night for their dedication and accomplishments in journalism.


KETV News Director Rose Ann Shannon, receiving the 2015 Omaha Press Club Career Achievement Award

To Rose Ann and Dr. Walklin, THANK YOU for believing in me and helping me believe in myself a little more.  Thank you to all of the parents, teachers, mentors and friends who encourage and support aspiring journalists; the hours are long, the timing is terrible and the stress is high.  Most of all, to the 18 men and women who are joining us in this crazy world, and reigniting our passion all over again, CONGRATULATIONS, and good luck.


CONGRATULATIONS to the following 2015 OPC Scholarship recipients!


Joseph Hoile, Vanessa Daves, Jane Ngo, Madison Wurtele, Brent BonFleur, Mara Klecker, Christopher Heady, Natasha Rausch


Angela Eastep, Matthew Barros, Nick Beaulieu, Maria Brown, Marin Krause


Anthony Robinson, Catherine Adams, Michael Holdsworth, Krysta Larson, Scott Prewitt


Click here for more information about the Omaha Press Club and how to become a member. (You DO NOT need to be a working media member to join!)

Click here for more information about the Omaha Press Club Foundation and scholarships for future journalists.

Magic Dance

If you saw the title of this post, and immediately thought of this…



Labyrinth.  CLASSIC.  And yet again, the Miss Nebraska contestants reading this post are probably thinking, ‘what the….’  because it came out in 1986.

Ladies, find it on Netflix.  DEFINITELY worth it.

ANYWAY…  Magic Dance is one of the songs in the movie.  And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is about all I’ve got for you when it comes to dance.  Unless you want to check out my post regarding the 10 best moments of So You Think You Can Dance.  I CANNOT dance.  I can do many things; dancing is not among them. It truly looks like something is medically wrong with me when I try.  So, I am in complete awe of people who CAN dance, like the young lady you are about to meet.

ARchibald Photography

Miss Lake McConaughy, Chrissy Townsend

“I have been dancing since the age of 3 so being able to showcase my love for something I’ve been doing for so long is wonderful,” Chrissy told me recently.  “Capturing an audience with just the movement of your body is such a great form of expression.”

Chrissy just completed her final year as a member of the University of Nebraska-Omaha dance team, which finished in the top 5 in the National Dance Alliance championships.

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Click here to see video of the UNO Dance Team performing.

Chrissy’s time as a Maverick also introduced her to the Make-A-Wish foundation, inspiring her personal platform of service as Miss Lake McConaughy: ‘Be The Change, Make-A-Wish’.

“I have been involved with Make-A-Wish for four years now and it really has changed my life,” said Chrissy.  “It all started out with my sorority when I joined Chi Omega and since then my love for it has continued to grow.  I have the opportunity to meet Wish families and get to know them on a personal level which makes volunteering with them so great.”

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It’s kids like these that make being a titleholder so special for Chrissy.

“My absolute favorite part is being a role model for the younger generation,” said Chrissy.  “Both boys and girls really look up to you and admire the things that you do in your daily lives so being able to be a positive influence on them makes it all worthwhile.”

Not so long ago, Chrissy was looking up to Miss Nebraska contestants, as a participant in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.

“It was a really great way to prepare for the transition to the Miss division,” said Chrissy.  “I also really value the fact that it provides such great scholarships.  College has been so rewarding the past four years and having the money to help pay back my student loans is so nice.”

Chrissy not only thinks Lifestyle and Fitness (aka the swimsuit competition) should be part of the program, she calls it great!

“These incredible women do so many different things throughout their lives and should be commended for being able to stay so busy and still have time to live an active lifestyle,” said Chrissy.  “We live in an age that being healthy and active isn’t valued.  I think the swimsuit portion of the competition showcases and brings light and hope to those who are trying to better themselves.”



“Anyone who talks to me will notice that I talk with my hands a lot,” said Chrissy.  “This means I’m overly excited about anything and everything that I get to talk about.  What I’m getting at is that I am always really excited to be so animated in person.”

Maybe that’s the secret to being such a phenomenal dancer–being so excited about life you just can’t contain it inside your body.

I found this quote about dance:

‘Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.’ –H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Fitting, because here’s what Chrissy says about Miss Nebraska:

“It is all about empowering women and providing them with so many opportunities both personally and professionally.  I urge people to see the bigger picture.  It is way more than pretty girls with sparkles and makeup.  These ladies are the future and they do everything and anything they can to make a difference and we need more people in the world today like that.”


Kind of like dancers.. behind the amazing costumes and stage makeup are gifted artists who tell stories through movement and music.

Miss Lake McConaughy is bringing her Magic Dance to Miss Nebraska.  And Chrissy, if you need some awesome music to get even MORE excited, the Labyrinth soundtrack is great 🙂


Connect with Miss Lake McConaughy, Chrissy Townsend

On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and by email at crtownsend88@gmail.com


The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.


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Making Noise

Every single one of the young women competing for Miss Nebraska has a voice, a message they want as many people as possible to listen to.

Today’s featured contestant is working extra hard, because the same people she is trying to help CANNOT always hear her.


Miss Metro, Kimberly Brennan

Kimberly is nearly deaf in her left ear.  A virus, contracted when she was 14, stole her hearing.  A virus that was not diagnosed for several weeks, despite Kimberly’s complaints about ringing in her ear and an inability to hear things clearly.

“It took an ENT five minutes to diagnose a virus in my ear.  If I had only known weeks earlier, my hearing could have been saved,” said Kimberly in a recent interview.  “I want to share my story and take the message of hearing loss prevention on a state and national level because I don’t want others to risk this same fate.”

Kimberly now travels to schools and other groups sharing her story.  She also hands out earplugs and has plans to ‘take on’ companies that produce products like ear buds to make listening devices safer.

“With the ever growing prevalence of noise induced hearing loss, now is the perfect time to take on the issue,” said Kimberly.  “The answer lies mainly in providing the knowledge.”



Kimberly’s explanation behind her personal platform is only a glimpse of the passion she has for her roles, not just as Miss Metro, but as ‘Miss Brennan’.  Kimberly graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha and has been accepted into the CADRE Masters of Education program, where she plans to obtain her Master’s Degree in education WHILE teaching full-time.

“Student teaching was a high point in my educational career,” said Kimberly.  “I loved and was energized by teaching students each day and dedicating myself to helping them learn and grow.”

Kimberly also spends about 21 hours a week teaching baton at Sue’s Stepperettes, where she became a national and world champion despite her hearing loss.  She still trains there several hours a week.

“Imagine trying to throw a baton, jump, spin and balance, all while having the balance on one side of your body minimized,” said Kimberly.  “It took a lot of hard work and perseverance to regain the balance that I had; winning [those titles] have been some of the proudest moments of my life so far, because I had to work so hard to get there.”


Kimberly will compete for Miss Nebraska side by side with her fellow baton twirlers Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger and Miss State Fair Aleah Peters. 

See if you can spot them in KETV’s story on Sue’s Stepperettes when they celebrated 40 years in May of 2013.

No matter where she’s teaching, speaking, or twirling, Kimberly says she tries to show every person and group she cares about them.

“I want them to do well, I want them to accomplish great things and I want them to feel cared for,” said Kimberly.  “I try to talk to everyone I meet and I take a genuine interest in them.  I am truly fascinated by the things you can learn simply by talking to people you come across.”


That passion fuels Kimberly’s desire to serve others.

“I never feel better than when I am volunteering my time with others,” said Kimberly.  “I have had amazing opportunities to help by raising money, plunging in freezing cold water, reading to children at libraries and schools, speaking about hearing loss, passing out ear plugs, dancing, greeting people, running bid boards, doing arts and crafts, modeling, all while taking about a million photos to commemorate the life changing experiences!  I’m always looking for more opportunities to serve others, so PLEASE feel free to contact me if you know of any place that could use volunteers!”

Need proof?  I spotted Kimberly THREE TIMES in the April issue of Metro Magazine, volunteering or making appearances at events in the Omaha area.  In every photo, she is flashing a warm, welcoming smile.

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“What you see is what you get.  I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished so far in my life,” said Kimberly.  “I am confident in the fact that I am compassionate, passionate, dedicated, loving, caring, hard working, reflective, helpful, confident and intelligent.  But I also accept the face that I have lazy days sometimes, that I can procrastinate, that I over-schedule myself, that I have a sweet tooth and that I can be impatient.  We all have our negative qualities, but we need to be willing to embrace them and to better ourselves each day by serving others and gaining knowledge about anything and everything that strikes our fancy.”

Kimberly says the Miss America Organization highlights the positive, making the pageant still relevant in 2014.

“Turn to mass media and I bet you can find multiple stories about violence, celebrity happenings, people with eating disorders, and tragedies that happen every day,” said Kimberly.  “While there are some positive stories about people who are doing great things and fighting to make a change, they are far fewer than those that are disheartening and discouraging.  That is where the Miss America and Miss Nebraska pageants shine.  These contestants are women who are actually doing something about these problems.  They are women who are willing to put themselves out there and work like crazy to have a positive impact on the world.”

Kimberly’s out there, alright.  Trying to make people hear her story, on behalf of those who can’t.

She’s ready to make some noise at Miss Nebraska.


Connect with Miss Metro, Kimberly Brennan

by email at kabrennan@unomaha.edu


The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.


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