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

Film Streams offers panel discussions after three documentary film screenings this month.  With more, here’s Omaha Public Radio’s Cheril Lee…

The 5th Annual Heartland Walk for Warmth takes place tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:00 p.m. at Westroads Mall.

Kathy O’Hara, Spokesperson for United Way of the Midlands, says the event helps raise funds for energy assistance programs.  She says the organization has seen a 30% increase in requests for help with energy assistance over the past year.  O’Hara says the Walk for Warmth is a one mile walk outside.  She says even though it’s been a milder winter, it can get cold in the house when you can’t afford to turn the heat on…

A bill in the Nebraska legislature would allow residents in counties with fewer than 10,000 residents the opportunity to participate in vote by mail elections.

It would require the approval of eligible voters in the counties. The bill’s sponsor, Nebraska Senator John Harms, says the measure would streamline the voting process, save counties money and give more people the opportunity to vote.  He says the voting by mail turnout for special elections in the state has always been positive.

Lutheran Family Services is holding a yearlong celebration in honor of its 120th birthday. 

LFS began as two orphanages in 1892.  Spokeswoman Bev Carlson says since then, the human care organization has served children in multiple capacities.  LFS offers assistance with adoption, foster care services, and childhood behavioral health.  Carlson says the organization will hold a celebration on Saturday, September 22nd that’s meant to be a reunion

The Nebraska Humanities Council recently added 14 new programs to its Speakers’ Bureau. 

Programs are available to any Nebraska nonprofit organization for a small processing fee.  Mary Yager, Associate Director for the NHC, says there are about 300 programs in rotation at the Speakers’ Bureau at any given time.  She says the NHC puts out a call for speakers every three to four years.  

Yager says they recently expanded their programs to include subjects they haven’t had recently.  New programs center on Annie Oakley, the railroad and spoken word artists.

Senator Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha recently introduced LB 835 into the legislature.

The bill would create a state-based Nebraska health insurance marketplace.  Senator Nordquist says under the Affordable Care Act, each state is required to establish a healthcare exchange or the federal government will create one for them. 

Omaha, NE – Did your favorite website look different today? That's due to the outcry over the proposed SOPA bill. With more, here's Omaha Public Radio's Cheril Lee

Omaha, NE – Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska presents its annual At Ease Luncheon on Monday, January 30th.

The event takes place at Omaha's CenturyLink Center. Bev Carlson is PR Director for LFS. She says At Ease is a program that provides therapeutic support and trauma treatment for active duty military, veterans and their families. Funds raised from the luncheon will go back into the program.

Omaha, NE – The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual meeting luncheon on Wednesday, February 1st.

David Brown is Chamber President and CEO. He says awards that'll be given out at the luncheon include the Chairman's Award of Excellence and Volunteer of the Year. He says the meeting is for anyone who's interested in how communities grow and what Omaha needs to do to make sure there are enough jobs here for future generations.

Brown says Governor Dave Heineman is one of two guest speakers at this year's luncheon.

Omaha, NE – The holiday season may be over, but the Salvation Army Tree of Lights campaign continues through the end of January.

The goal for the campaign is $3.1 million. To date, the Salvation Army has raised $2.8 million, 91% of the way to the goal.

Madeline Madden is Director of Annual Funds for the Salvation Army of Omaha. She says all the funds raised through the campaign go to support programs in the Omaha community.

Omaha, NE – Almost 300 children and teens submitted essays for the United Way of the Midlands' annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Essay Contest.

Kathy O'Hara, with the United Way of the Midlands, says the four first place winners will read their essays out loud on Monday in front of family and friends. She says the contest offers kids some recognition for speaking publicly about their dreams for our community.

O'Hara says the contest invites kids to lift their voice and advocate for things they would like to see in the community.

Omaha, NE – Voices for Children in Nebraska has released its Kids Count in Nebraska 2011 Report.

Research Coordinator Melissa Breazile says the report focuses on the importance of investing in early childhood. She says the report is broken down into four key areas: health, education, safety and economic stability. Positive findings include an increase in the graduation rate and a decrease in the number of children living outside of their homes.

John Pierce is the Associate Vice President for Affirmative Action and Diversity Outreach at Creighton. He is also the chair of Creighton's MLK committee. Pierce says part of Creighton's mission is to focus on social justice and equality and respect for all individuals.

He says next week's celebration fits right in with that mission. The week begins with a Table Talk on Monday the 16th at 11:30 a.m.

David Crouse, a professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy at UNMC, is the guest speaker. He says issues related to radiation and radiation exposure have always been in the public eye. Crouse says there's a great deal of knowledge about radiation and its effects, but since radiation can't be seen, tasted or heard, the public is fearful of it.

Omaha, NE – Vocalist and pianist Ellis Hall presents a Tribute to Ray Charles with the Omaha Symphony on Saturday, January 14th.

Once dubbed Charles' protege, Hall first met Ray in 2001 while he was playing at a local Christmas party. He gave Charles his CD and the two soon began a friendship that lasted until Charles' death in 2004.

Hall's performance in Omaha will feature some of Ray Charles' most popular songs including "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on my Mind." Hall started learning piano in the third grade at the Perkins School for the Blind.

The Girl Scouts are launching a direct sale program this year. When Girl Scout Cookies go on sale January 13th, the girls will have boxes of cookies in hand. Theresa Cassaday is the Chief Communications Officer for Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska.

Omaha, NE – The deadline for nominations for the 2012 Freedom Awards is January 16th.

Retired Army Major General Walt Zink Chairs the Nebraska Employer Support to Guard and Reserve Committee. He says 15 employers are recognized with Freedom Awards each year. The three award categories are large employer, small employer and governmental employer.

Zink says the Freedom Award is the highest honor an employer can receive from the Department of Defense. These employers receive award for having a culture of support that goes above and beyond what the law mandates.

Lorraine Chang, Vice Chair of the Learning Community Coordinating Council, says the Learning Community consists of eleven school districts. She says the Learning Community consists of students from all walks of life; all of whom are worthy of the best possible education. With that in mind, the Learning Community is offering open enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year.

Omaha, NE – The VA of Nebraska-Western Iowa opened a homeless Veterans Day services center in Omaha this past September.

Linda Twomey is the Mental Health Specialty Programs Manager for the VA of Nebraska-Western Iowa. She says the day service center is a clinic where veterans have access to social workers, who function as case mangers and vocational rehabilitation staff to provide a one-stop shop for homeless veterans.

Twomey says when veterans first come in, their needs are assessed. Staff will then assist them in accessing the appropriate VA and community resources.

Omaha, NE – Common Sense Media has been a national partner with Omaha Public Schools for the past three years.

The organization seeks to give educators the resources to instruct students, parents and families on issues such as digital citizenship, safety and security on and offline, as well as research and information literacy.

DeLayne Havlovic, Career Education Specialist with OPS says three Common Sense Media training sessions are coming up next month. He says the program is broken up into three sections.

Omaha, NE – Work continues on the Fontenelle Park Master Plan.

Melinda Pearson is the Director of Omaha's Parks and Recreation Department. A public input meeting took place on December 15th. Pearson says the city will now take all the information they've received so far and put that into a plan or a couple of plans and bring those back to a public meeting in early February. Pearson says there are two groups: one that feels the golf course should be left as is, and another that is all over the board.

Omaha, NE – The City of Omaha's Parks and Recreation Department is holding two summer employment job fairs on Wednesday.

Bob Baber is the city's Golf Manager. He says the parks and recreation department is hiring for all areas in the department, including aquatics, park maintenance, golf courses and concessions.

Omaha, NE – With the end of the year rapidly approaching, UNO's Sustainability Force reminds people that the holidays are a good time to start creating a greener environment.

Patrick Wheeler, Senior Specialist in Environmental Health and Safety at UNO, says one thing you can do is recycle Christmas lights rather than throwing them out. He also advocates getting rid of clutter and donating items to family, friends or local needs-based charities.

Wheeler says another way to practice sustainability is to recycle that Christmas tree.

Omaha, NE – 25 agencies and projects in North and South Omaha are recipients of this year's turn-back tax grants.

Omaha City Councilman Garry Gernandt says the turn-back tax grants are generated through the sales tax that the state gets from the Hilton Hotel and Century Link Center in Omaha.

He says the city receives a percentage of that back every year and via state statute the money is put toward grants for areas with high concentrations of poverty. Gernandt says the program assists with cultural-historical projects.

David Drozd, Research Coordinator at UNO's Center for Public Affairs Research, says the data covers the state from April 2010, when the census was taken, through July 1st of this year.

He says Nebraska has had a fairly strong growth year, though not as strong as he thought it would be. Drozd says the reasons for slower growth may include the lower birthrates in the state and a slowdown in international immigration.

Dr. Davies is currently a professor and chairman of the Pediatrics and Human Development Department at Michigan State University. He says he is excited to become a part of UNMC.

Omaha, NE – CUT! Costume and the Cinema is the new exhibit on view at the Durham Museum through April 29th.

Marketing & PR Director Shawna Forsberg says each of the 43 costumes was created by Cosprop Ltd of London. She says all of the costumes were worn in the movies by actors such as Johnny Depp, Amy Adams and Colin Farrell. Forsberg says the films represented in the exhibit cover five centuries of history.