Cheril Lee

News Director

My broadcasting career began in the most unlikely of places…Okinawa, Japan.  I was interviewed one afternoon while I was in college and, on a lark, I asked if the TV station needed any volunteers.  They said they could use a weather person who would stick around for at least six months.  Two auditions and one meeting later, I was in front of the cameras Monday through Friday night, giving the weather forecast for the island. 

Did I mention that FEN was the ONLY American TV station on the island?  Well, let’s just say that I got to know what being a celebrity was like, really quickly.  Since I was the only civilian on an all-military newscast, I stood out just a little bit.  It was one of the best times of my life and I worked with eight different news anchors.  This taught me that every broadcaster has a different way of approaching the craft. 

After Japan, I made my way back across the ocean, by way of plane, to the great state of Mississippi.  While there, I anchored daily newscasts at a local station, Northland Cable News.  The station was located in Starkville, the home of Mississippi State University.  While there, I got to attend football games in the press box, which was quite cool until the day they tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that cheering was not allowed in the press box.  Oops.  Again, I learned a little something about retaining one’s professionalism in every situation. 

While in Mississippi, I also made appearances on other TV stations’ breakfast and lunch time shows, usually talking to the hosts about various plays I was appearing in onstage.

My next broadcasting gig was right here in Omaha at KVNO, Classical 90.7 where I became the News Director in 2000.  I remember that my first day was right in the middle of a fund drive.  The Program Director asked me if I wanted to jump in and pitch and I thought, “What the heck is pitching?”  I deferred, telling him I’d participate in the next one.  And participate I did.  While I was there, I did more than 20 fund drives.  Additionally, I anchored several daily newscasts, wrote, produced and delivered the Arts at 8:30 and at the end, hosted a two-hour on-air shift in addition to my other duties.  I learned a lot about classical composers, including the correct pronunciation of Dvorak.

After a decade at KVNO, I decided to pursue my Master’s Degree at UNO, so I left the station to take classes.  But it wasn’t long before the siren song of public radio lured me back.  I started working for KIOS in January of 2010 as a news anchor, reporter and on-air host.  The Saturday morning programs are among my favorites and I love talking with listeners who are as passionate about public radio as I am.

When I’m not talking on the airwaves, I love to act in community theatre productions, rock out to concerts and write.  Traveling has always been a passion of mine.  I’ve been to several countries, including Italy, Japan, Albania, Slovenia, England and my personal favorite, Ireland.  Up next, are the Dominican Republic, France and Scotland. 

Ever the optimist, you will usually hear a smile in my voice when I’m hosting.  It is my goal to be good company as you move through your day.  

Ways to Connect

A recent survey released by the Salvation Army found 56% of Salvation Army Youth Programs are operating at or beyond their capacity.

Susan Eustice, Director of Public Relations for Salvation Army Omaha, says the survey covered more than 80 cities, including Omaha.  Results show that more than 80 percent of youth programs saw an increase in demand from children and families in the past year, due to unemployment issues and funding cuts.  Eustice says Omaha North Corps has been especially busy.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Sheri Bowen is the Agency Administrator for the Mills County Public Health Department.  She says Iowa is fifth in the nation when it comes to percentage of late stage colon cancer diagnoses.  

Bowen says when colon cancer is caught in an early stage, it’s 90% treatable.  Currently 64% of Iowans over the age of 50 have been screened. Bowen says the Iowa Get Screened Colorectal Cancer Program wants to increase that to 80% by 2014.

US News and World Report has ranked five UNO graduate programs in the top 20 nationally.

John Bartle is the Acting Dean for the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at UNO.  He says the rankings show how strong UNO is at the graduate level.  

Bartle says the rankings are done by deans and directors of graduate programs.  Five programs within public administration were recognized, including criminology and criminal justice, social work and business.

UNMC rose in the 2013 US News and World Report rankings of the nation’s top medical schools.

Chancellor Harold Maurer says out of the 149 medical schools surveyed in the latest rankings, UNMC ranked sixth in primary care, up from seventh last year.  He says 83% of the students who attend medical school at UNMC are from Nebraska and many opt to work in the state when they finish school. 

Chancellor Maurer says he’s especially proud of the rural medicine program which tied for 12th this year, up from 15th last year.

UNO’s 7 Days of Service began on Saturday and continues through Friday.

Bri Exstrom, PR Student at UNO, says this is the 10th anniversary of 7 days of service. 

Held during spring break, the 7 Days of Service offers UNO students and community members the opportunity to work on 12 projects with 14 nonprofit organizations. 

Exstrom says volunteers will be working with the Stephen Center, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity, among others.

Weysan Dun, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI’s Omaha office, will be the guest speaker for Creighton’s upcoming Asian World Lecture. 

Maorong Jiang is the Director of the Asian World Center at Creighton.  He says Dun is the longest serving special agent in the Omaha division.  Dun’s assignment as a field agent includes investigating national security matters, high technology theft investigations, and criminal enterprises. 

The state of Nebraska has mandatory education laws in place until a student reaches the age of 18. 

An exception to the current law allows students to withdraw from school with a notarized statement from their parents.  LB 996, a bill sponsored by Senator John Wightman, seeks to eliminate that exception. 

He says even with a notarized statement, a student would not be able to be withdrawn from school by a parent or legal guardian.  There now would have to be an exit interview between the parent, the child and the principal.

Five researchers from Nebraska and Oklahoma will study the role of nutrition in cancer prevention.  The researchers each received a $50,000 seed grant to conduct their research over a one year period. 

Grants were awarded through a collaborative project between the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in Omaha and the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City.  

Terry Kroeger, Publisher and CEO of Omaha World Herald, was the guest speaker at February’s Omaha Press Club Noon Forum.      

Kroeger talked about the recent sale of the newspaper to Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway.  He also discussed how the sale will affect the paper in the future as well how it came about.   Kroeger says the World Herald editorial writers won’t be influenced by the paper being owned by Buffett.

UNO has a long history of working with military and veteran students as well as their families.  In the fall of 2010 UNO’s Mav USO office conducted a survey of military and veteran students. 

The results of the study showed that military and veteran students knew UNO had a lot of great programs and services to support them. What they didn’t know was how to access those programs. 

Hayley Patton, Director of Military and Veterans Programs at UNO, says that will change in a few weeks as UNO opens a new military and veterans university services office to assist these students.

Gas Prices on the Rise

Mar 7, 2012

Motorists may have noticed a recent increase in gas prices in the metro area. 

John Deskins, Associate Professor of Economics at Creighton University, says there’s no need to worry.  Though he does anticipate gas prices will rise in April, May and June as they usually do when summer approaches, he expects the prices will also decrease by fall.  

According to Deskins, it is difficult to pinpoint one specific reason for the recent run up in gas prices.

Happily Ever After: Wedding Dresses and Traditions is the title of the Douglas County Historical Society 2nd annual luncheon and runway show.

Cassandra Novotne, Coordinator for the Douglas County Historical Society, says the show highlights wedding gowns, bridesmaids’ dresses and other matrimonial clothing from the 1890’s to the 1970’s. 

The rock and roll musical is set in 1987 around a club on the Sunset Strip.  Actor Matt Ban plays Dennis Dupree in the production. 

He says Dennis is the 70’s leftover in the show and owns the rock club.  Ban says this is the first rock show he’s ever done and he’s having a good time singing some of the 80’s best hair metal music.  

He says the show gets big reactions wherever it goes and he thinks it’s because the music is so much fun and so well-known.

Researchers at UNMC’s College of Public Health released an initial community report last June on issues surrounding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals. 

Dr. Christopher Fisher is an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health. He says the goal of the study was to examine the physical, mental, social and sexual health of the LGBT community.  

The Girls in the Band

Mar 3, 2012

The 7th Annual Omaha Film Festival begins runs next Wednesday through Sunday at the Great Escape Cinema 16.  Omaha Public Radio’s Cheril Lee has the story of the documentaries selected for the festival.  It’s called The Girls in the Band…

Senator Brad Ashford introduced LB 1144 in the legislature.

He says the bill is part of the education priority package of bills that will be voted on by the legislature in the next few weeks.  Senator Ashford says the bill supports and encourages the creation of career academies for Nebraska. 

He says a career academy is a stand alone educational school that would provide courses and a pathway to employment for those students who do not seek a traditional college education.  

Give a Damn?

Mar 1, 2012

The 2012 Omaha Film Festival begins next Wednesday and runs five days at the Great Escape Cinema 16.  Dan Parris is one of the documentary filmmakers.  Parris will be in attendance for the screening of his film, Give a Damn.  With the story, here’s Omaha Public Radio’s Cheril Lee...

Joe Gudenrath, Executive Director for Omaha’s Downtown Improvement District, says downtown parking has been an issue for residents, visitors and business owners for a number of years.  

A little over a year ago, the DID decided to conduct a study of the current public parking system. 

Gudenrath says it examines the current parking conditions to see how the city can better maximize use of the existing parking assets.

The Great Escape Cinema 16 is the venue for the 2012 Omaha Film Festival.  The festival kicks off March 7th.  Omaha Public Radio’s Cheril Lee joins us now with the details on one of the featured documentaries…

UNO’s Department of Black Studies is hosting its 11th annual Malcolm X Festival Wednesday, March 7th and Thursday, March 8th.

Peggy Jones, Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Department, says this year’s theme is “Juveniles and Justice: Law and the Prison Industrial Complex.”  She says the two-day event will feature a mix of presenters and topics, including poverty, youth and the law. 

Jones says Ameena Fort-Matthews is the guest speaker.  Fort-Matthews was featured in the documentary film, “The Interrupters.”

By Julia Willoughby Nason

The 7th annual Omaha Film Festival runs March 7th through the 11th.  All movies will be screened at the Great Escape Cinema 16.  Today, Omaha Public Radio’s Cheril Lee introduces us to the documentary film Hard Times: Lost on Long Island…  

A recent survey done by Bellevue University shows 2 out of 3 people who don’t have a degree are thinking about going back to school. 

Dr. Mary Hawkins, President of Bellevue University, says the purpose of the study was to understand the thoughts, motives and concerns of adults who have thought about going back to college and why they aren’t doing so. 

The Omaha Film Festival runs March 7th through the 11th at the Great Escape Cinema 16.  The Festival will screen several documentaries next week, including Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters.  Omaha Public Radio’s Cheril Lee introduces us to the filmmakers…

More than $3 million was raised during the Omaha Salvation Army’s 2011 Tree of Lights Campaign. 

Joanne Bemis is the Divisional Director of Development. She says last year, the Salvation Army assisted more than 170,000 people and she anticipates the need increasing this year.  

The Salvation Army has more than 20 social service programs, serving families from teens to senior citizens. Bemis says 100% of the money raised during the campaign goes to support these programs.

The Liverpool Legends will perform at Morton Magnet Middle School tonight at 7:00.

The group is comprised of musicians specially picked by Beatle George Harrison’s sister, Louise.  

Dan Mattran, Instrumental Music Director at Morton Magnet, says the concert will offer a complete Beatles experience with music that spans the Fab Four’s entire career.  He says the performance will feature Morton’s chorus and band on selected songs. 

Researchers at UNMC are making strides in dealing with Her2. 

Dr. Kay Wagner says Her2 is an aggressive type of breast cancer.  He says there are several subsets and that each case must be treated differently. 

Dr. Wagner says in previous studies, it was thought that by inhibiting a certain protein called Cyclin D1, the growth of breast cancer cells could be stopped or slowed.  But he says his research indicated the opposite was true.

The 5th annual Ultra Chic Prom Boutique takes place Saturday, February 25th.

Lisa Sekundiak, Vice President and Owner of Max I. Walker, says she was inspired to start the event after looking through her own closet of gently used formal wear.  She says the company asks people to look through their own closets, and consider donating any unwanted bridesmaids gowns or prom dresses. 

Sekundiak says Max I. Walker cleans all the dresses and then displays them all at the boutique.  Each dress is sold for $25.  Sekundiak says the prom boutique features more than dresses.

Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund

Last weekend, the Joslyn Art Museum opened To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum.  The exhibit explores beliefs about life, death and the afterlife.  With more, here’s KIOS’ Cheril Lee…

UNO’s Athletic Department recently received a leadership gift from Brian and Carey Hamilton. 

Trev Alberts, UNO’s Athletic Director, says the money will be used for a student academic success center.  

He says the department’s focus right now is to look programmatically at how they can help students and coaches be successful at Division 1. 

Alberts says the university’s move to Division 1 means more competition and accountability.  He says that’s why it’s important that the department administratively supports the student-athletes and coaches.

PRIDE-Omaha, Inc. is dissolving its non-profit corporation on March 31, 2012.

The organization was formed in 1978 with the purpose of working to keep children safe and drug-free.  Executive Director Susie Dugan says even though the need for drug prevention is as great as ever when it comes to kids and drugs, it has become increasingly difficult to sustain funding for their resource center. 

She says PRIDE-Omaha is grateful to the community and state supporters who made it possible for them to do their work for so long.