When we started, only Omaha and El Paso out of the top 100 markets in the U.S. didn’t have an alternative news media. El Paso finally started one 10 years after us, but it’s founder, Beto O’Rourke, is now on to much bigger things.
As The Reader celebrates 25 years with this special issue, it’s a good time to look around and see how far Omaha has come. Doing so will quickly tell you we still have a long way to go. That means The Reader will continue to give a voice to those underrepresented in our community, and the roots they often find in our local culture, and to challenge the powerful without fear or favor.
Of course, the elephant in every local media room is: How are going to pay for that?
For the past decade we’ve been honing our skills as a digital-first agency serving businesses large and small, fitting in best as lead or part of a team to provide long-term value in a rapidly shifting online landscape. That’s not selling ads in our publications and websites, it’s helping businesses think like media, engaging audiences — online and off — to grow their businesses.
Our print advertising base has been amazingly resilient for being awfully neglected by an organization that’s built world-class digital expertise. It’s driven by a 95 percent pick-up rate and the second-largest circulation of any general-interest publication in the city. Hope you enjoy this new look from original alternative newspaper designer Ken Guthrie. There’s a lot to be said for street presence, and we’re going to be updating our racks and signage this year.
We are national leaders in agency services from media and we’re now starting to turn those skills to our own media. Look for new websites, other digital initiatives and more editorial staff. If you’re an investigative journalist with skills or the willingness for data and video, we want to talk to you. We’re also looking for managers skilled in working with technical and creative professionals. Opportunities are growing in community and nonprofit partnerships.
As the publisher/editor, I am most often associated with The Reader’s durability and our successes. But that would gravely miss the mark. I’m here not only for this community and our readers, but the teams that make it all possible. It truly is an honor and pleasure to work with some of our most committed and creative people.
Over the course of this year we’ll have installments on the history of the local alternative press. Look for guest contributions from staff and writers spanning our entire 25 years and earlier, including some of your favorite names such as Barry Bedlan and Ed Stastny, Kevin and Mark Simonson, Amy Goldyn and Max Sparber, Leslie Prisbell and Timothy Schaeffert, Jon Segura, Summer Miller Widhalm, Andrew Norman and many more.
That’s just a sample, but they are the reason The Reader has lasted this long. In that tradition, let me introduce the home-office group that’s taking us into the next 25 years.
Clay Seaman. We first met Clay when we found a crumpled wire rack on our back dock in Dundee, a dispute over distribution locations. The distribution manager for the Employment Guide, Clay joined us in 2010 and quickly became our lead in offering local SEO services, tackling this brand-new world without flinching. Today he leads our business education and revenue efforts.
Jason Fisher. We first started working with Jason in 2012 when he was the technical SEO lead for our partner SearchRankings, helping us quickly evolve into an advanced digital agency. He joined our team in 2017 and has been a critical part of overseeing our operations and growing our technical capacity. You won’t find a kinder, more considerate digital professional anywhere.
Kati Falk. A former radio account executive, marketing director for a local bank and agency owner, Kati left her sales manager position at a broadcast group in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2013 to return to Omaha, where we were extremely fortunate to gain her wisdom and expertise. She oversees our billing, client services, broadcast consulting and is a key advisor to everyone here.
Salvador Robles. He calls himself the intern who never left (since 2014), but Salvador has moved from digital support to office manager to anchoring our production team and overseeing El Perico’s editorial. Sal is a local music legend in South Omaha, in addition to being an emerging media leader, and we will take as much of him as we can get.
Michael Newgren aka Spike. An award-winning, well-traveled managing editor with the stories to match (Breslin and Cosell stories for a start), Spike serves as our lead and online editor from his home in Fargo, North Dakota, where he’s taking care of his 93-year-old father, a WWII vet who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated veterans in U.S. history. Spike first served as our managing editor in 1996 and taught me a lot about journalism.
Annabelle Abisset. A master’s student in public administration at UNO, Annabelle started in 2016 overseeing the event listings for The Reader. Smart and fearless on the digital front and steady with a great touch for service, she’s taken a leadership role in our review management offerings, learning the identity SEO space and will be helping grow our local engagement efforts.
Timothy Stokes. A one-man powerhouse of small business technical expertise and digital fulfillment, Tim started with us in the summer of 2018 after leaving a local newspaper group. Not only will he diligently and conscientiously execute any digital campaign, he’ll also figure out how to set up a live video stream at your location if that’s what you need.
Amor Habbab-Mills. A well-known and effective immigration activist, Amor was featured on The Reader’s cover of DREAMers in 2017. Since November 2018, Amor has been leading the charge in connecting with the districts rich in local, independent businesses — big areas of distribution for us — to reintroduce our advertising and digital-service offerings. She won’t sell you an ad if your digital presence isn’t in order, and she’s already developed a checklist to get your business there quickly. Look for her and compatriot Itzel Miller on a mission to help local businesses.
Angie Marshall-Navarez. Joining us in late 2018, Angie works remotely from her home in Costa Rica to oversee event listings for both The Reader and El Perico and to assist the educational and sales team in identifying small-business digital needs. Cheerful, detail oriented and a quick study, Angie will also be a critical part of relaunching El-Perico.com.
We are now a carbon-neutral operation thanks to a partnership with Verdis Group and the Arbor Day Foundation (see accompanying story).
It’s an extremely exciting time to be in local media, especially if you’re an alternative. We intend to lead the way in the next generation of local media, so don’t be surprised when we rewrite the rules moving forward. That might also involve asking you to step up for us. Please support your local journalists.
In the meantime, enjoy this retrospective and please know, we will never stop fighting.