I never once thought growing up I’d ever want to get into journalism, but keeping Sokol Auditorium open changed all that for me. There I found my passion, but it’s thanks to quite a few folks that I learned the trade.
That started for me watch-ing Fairbury, Neb. native, former Creightonian editor and now a senior editor at Associates Press, Barry Bedlan, putting together the early issues for Sounds News & Arts.
With the launch of The Reader, I worked with the Simonson brothers, both brilliant editors and writers, and my happy introduction to the New Journalism expounded by literary giants Thomas Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. Busy with Sharky’s Brewery and one of Omaha’s very first dog biscuit boutiques by the name of Bone Appetit, they left the paper by the end of 1995.
From the 2nd floor of the former Firehouse Dinner Theater and today’s Upstream Brewery, a high school chum, recent University of Arizona graduate and future Emmy award winner Jason Auslander was our first trained news journalist.
Art Director Mills left in May of 1996 to return to his hometown in northern California and with that The Reader was down to two founders and owners in myself and Beckmann, setting the stage for what might be one of the longest running duels in newsweekly history. That July, after a trip I took to my first convention for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN), The Reader went weekly from its offices at 1618 Harney Streets.
Former Fremont Tribune editor and Associated Press Columnist of the Year Tom Gunning was our first full-time editor, teaching me to match literary chops with passion and journalism fundamentals. He heralded his replacement, former World Herald editor Michael Newgren, who’s sage outlook and sense of humor steadied our youthful exuber-ance. The Newgs helped me see the longview on journalism, as well as life. Our first culture editors, Max Sparber and Amy Goldyn, significantly raised the bar of our coverage and laid the seeds for what is Omaha’s longest-running and most established cultural and critical writing team that is today led by Warren Francke, Mike Krainak, Tim McMahan, B.J. Huchtemann, Ryan Syrek, Bill Grennan and Chris Aponick.
In July of 1998, The Reader joined such notable metroplitan newsweeklies as Village Voice, Chicago Reader and San Francisco Bay Guard-ian (RIP), all with Nebraska roots, as a member publication of AAN.
In 1999, I had a parting of ways with publisher Dan Beckmann and in 2000 started the Omaha Weekly just as Alan Baer took ownership of The Reader. News editor and now Publisher’s Weekly editor Jon Segura regularly picked up scoops with his trademark fedora hat, when we wasnt’ fronting punk bands in the evening. Michelle Cartwright-Bruckner managed everything. With their departures for educational and job oppor-tunities, Summer Miller-Widhalm took over and longest contributor Ken Guthrie, always the pro-duction calvary, assisted with layout.
After Alan Baer passed away in 2002, I was approached by son Ted Baer, who remembered a promise years earlier to talk with me first if things ever changed for The Reader. With assistance from the Baer family estate and two of Omaha’s finest individuals and my first angel investors, we purchased The Reader in December 2002. That led to the purchase of ABM Enter-prises and Omaha’s leading Spanish publications — El Perico and Directorio Latino — in Sep-tember of 2004, making us a true multicultural media company.