Omaha Press Club | Hall of Fame
Omaha Press Club
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Hall of Fame to induct six at June 1 dinner

Six outstanding journalists will be inducted on Saturday, June 1 into the Omaha Press Club Journalists of Excellence Hall of Fame. Three of which spent their entire journalism careers in Omaha.

Ann Pedersen, director of Strategic Communications and Public Relations at OBI and former assistant news director at WCCO in Minneapolis and WOWT in Omaha, will emcee the 11thannual ceremonies.

The Journalists Excellence Hall of Fame is once again being sponsored by Firespring.

The night gets underway at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails, followed by dinner and the induction ceremonies.

The Hall of Fame ceremony is open to the public, but reservations are required by calling 402-345-8008 or email

Image of 2019 hall of fame honorees

Joan (Joni) Baillon – Joni got the television bug as runner-up to Miss Downtown St. Paul (MN) when the woman who held the title was too shy to do interviews.  She was one of only two women at that time to graduate from the Brown Institute of Broadcasting in Minneapolis and began her first on-air job at KJAM Radio in Madison, South Dakota.  In 1966 she became the “Women’s Director” at KMA Regional Radio in Shenandoah, Iowa, doing a 30-minute talk/call-in show.  Three years later she moved to television and KMTV, hosting a daily, half hour live interview program “Conversations”.  Joni interviewed stars, politicians, coaches and Johnny Carson during the programs’ run from 1969 to 1981. She followed her distinguished career in journalism with and equally outstanding career in marketing Omaha city events.  She is a past president of the Omaha Press Club (1982).  Joni and her husband met at KMTV in 1971 and were married for 44 years.

Ben Gray – Ben spent his entire journalism career at KETV, Channel 7.  While at KETV, Ben produced and hosted the longest running pubic affairs show in the history of Omaha television, “Kaleidoscope” which was on the air for 30 years.  During his long career Ben won numerous local, regional and national awards as a talk show host, journalist and photographer. Ben was elected to the Omaha City Council in 2009 and re-elected in 2013 and 2017.  He represents the northwest quadrant of the city and is currently council president.  Ben and his wife Freddie J. Gray have a blended family of seven, with 12 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Walt Kavanagh (posthumous) – Walt was the voice of radio news in Omaha for 42 years.  He grew up in a south Omaha Irish catholic family. After graduating from South High School in 1940 he went to Creighton to study broadcast journalism.  World War II intervened however.  He served three years in the army in ground infantry and as a paratrooper and spent 12 months in occupied Germany. Walt came back to Omaha to finish his degree and marry his wife Joan. They were married for 46 years and had three daughters and a son. Walt’s first broadcast job was at KFJB in Marshalltown, Iowa. He came back to Omaha to work for KOWH and eventually to his radio home, KFAB, where he broadcast for 39 years and became the news director.  School kids loved Walt because his was the voice that announced schools were closed.  Walt retired in 1992 and received many awards during his long career including The Society of Professional Journalists – Journalist of the Year, a lifetime achievement award from the University of Nebraska Omaha’s department of Communications and his face on the Omaha Press Club’s barroom floor.  Walt passed away in 1998.

Mike McKnight – The original ‘one-man band’, Mike graduated from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and started work at WOWT in Omaha months later. He’s been there ever since. Mike ran the station’s state bureau in Lincoln for 10 years and since the 90’s has been the station’s investigative reporter.  One of the perks of his long tenure has been working as a Husker football sideline photographer including the national championship seasons.  Mike has received numbers awards over his 40 years in television from the Associated Press, the Nebraska Broadcasters Association, a regional Emmy and Nebraska News photographer of the year.  Mike has been married to his wife Carla for 32 years. They have two sons.  Mike is currently a member of the Omaha Press Club board of directors.

Carrie Murphy – A college internship at KMTV turned into a 34-year broadcasting career in television news reporting, producing and management.  Carrie credits her college advisor, Joe McCartney and KMTV News Director Mark Gautier for giving her the opportunity to work in her hometown.  She is the recipient of numerous local, state and national awards for news, documentary and public affairs reporting, including two Iris awards, presented by the National Association of Television Program Executives for outstanding local television programming.  Carrie has served on many community boards and committees including the Omaha Press Club board of directors. She is a graduate of Omaha Burke High School and the University of Nebraska Omaha.  Carrie currently serves as Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s Deputy Chief of Staff/Communications.

Kent Warneke – Kent started his newspaper career at the Omaha World Herald in 1982 as a reporter, copy editor and editorial writer.  He joined the Norfolk Daily News in 1987 and serves as editor and vice president to this day.  Under his direction, the Norfolk Daily News has won the Omaha World Herald’s Community Service Award for daily newspapers more than 10 times and the Nebraska Press Association’s sweepstakes award the past two years. Kent has served on numerous civic boards including Faith Regional Health Services, the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the Humanities Nebraska Foundation board and the Nebraska Press Association.  Kent was inducted into the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame in 2012.  He attended the University of Nebraska Lincoln.  Kent is married to his wife Susan and they have two children.

2018 Honorees

Harold Dow, KETV, CBS
Jim Fogarty, Legacy Preservation Books, KETV, Omaha World-Herald
Cate Folsom, Omaha World-Herald
Ron Hull, NET, UNL-Lincoln
Jeff Jordan, KMTV, Union Pacific, Omaha World-Herald
Bob Runnels, KMTV

2017 Honorees

Judy Horan, WOWT, Freelance Writer
C. David Kotok, Omaha World-Herald
Patricia J. Matson, ABC, Inc; Ford and Nixon White Houses
Sibyl Myers, Omaha World-Herald
Bud Pagel, NU School Journalism
Dave Webber, KFAB, KMTV, WOWT

2016 Honorees

Jim Flowers, KETV, WOWT, KMTV
Frank Partsch, Omaha World-Herald
John Prescott, KMTV, KHAS-TV, WOWT, Union Pacific, STRATCOM
Jim Roberts, KMTV (1928-1967)
Marguerita Washington, Ph.D., The Omaha Star (1936-2016)
Dr. Eileen Wirth, Creighton University, Omaha World-Herald
Watch the 2016 ceremony on YouTube

2015 Honorees

Rev. Don Doll, S.J., Creighton University
Bob Hoig, Midlands Business Journal
Steve Jordon, Omaha World-Herald
John (Jack) McBride, NETV
Arnold Peterson, WOW Radio and TV
Chuck Roberts, KMTV, CNN Headline News
Gary Sadlemyer, KFAB

2014 Honorees

Robert Dorr, Omaha World-Herald
Carl Keith, Omaha World-Herald
Joe McCartney, WOW Radio-TV, UNO, Union Pacific
Rob McCartney, KETV
Mary McGrath, Omaha World-Herald

2013 Honorees

David A. Haberman, Creighton University
Michael Kelly, Omaha World-Herald
Joe Patrick, KFAB, WOW, KMTV, KETV
Ann Pedersen, WOWT, WCCO-TV
Carol Schrader, KETV, KFAB, NET

2012 Honorees

Rudolph Smith, Omaha World-Herald
Rose Ann Shannon, KETV/KMTV
Phil Johnson, Omaha World-Herald
Barc Wade, AAA Home & Away Magazine
Hugh P. Cowdin, Ph.D., University of Nebraska at Omaha
Robert McMorris, Omaha World-Herald

2011 Honorees

Ninette Beaver, KMTV
John Gottschalk, Omaha World-Herald
Gary Kerr, WOWT
Rev. Leland E. “Lee” Lubbers, S.J., SCOLA, Creighton University
Lee Terry Sr., KETV, WOW-TV

2010 Honorees

Dave Hamer, KETV, KMTV, WOWT
John Hlavacek, United Press, NBC, KMTV
Deanna Sands, Omaha World-Herald
Dottie Hayes Sater, WOW-TV and WOW Radio

2009 Honorees

Harold W. Andersen, Omaha World-Herald
John Clark (1948-2007), KMTV
Mark O. Gautier Jr. (1930-1998), KMTV
James M. McGaffin Jr. (1921-1985), WOW-TV and Radio
Jack Payne, WOW-TV/Radio, KFAB
Howard Silber, Omaha World-Herald

2008 Honorees

Omaha Sun Newspapers: Warren Buffett, Stanford Lipsey, Paul N. Williams.
Mildred Brown, The Omaha Star
Lyell Bremser, “Voice of the Huskers” KFAB and KOIL
Earle “Buddy” Bunker, Omaha World-Herald
Ray Clark, WOW-TV
Henry Doorly, Omaha World-Herald
Sen. Gilbert M. Hitchcock, Omaha Daily World, Omaha World-Herald.
Floyd Kalber, KMTV, NBC-TV Today Show
Ed May Sr. KMTV, May Broadcasting Co.
Steve Murphy, WOW-TV
Harvey Newbranch, Omaha World-Herald
John Savage, Omaha World-Herald
Rev. Roswell Williams, S.J., Creighton University