Omaha World-Herald’s FWAA members launching Internet radio show in March

Omaha World-Herald columnist  and former FWAA President  Tom Shatel  and his colleague Lee Barfknecht, the FWAA’s first vice-president, and several other FWAA members at the World-Herald are part of this new radio internet program that will launch in March. The following is Tom’s column about plans for the new show.

Beam me up, Mike’l.

We’re not far from a day when the AM radio will be replaced by Internet radio. A time when you can get in your car, plug in your phone and listen to your favorite talk show, order a pizza or buy movie tickets over the Internet.

Omaha World-Herald columnist and former FWAA President Tom Shatel

Omaha World-Herald columnist and former FWAA President Tom Shatel

So says Mike’l Severe, the new host of the World-Herald show “The Bottom Line.”

“It’s already starting,” Severe said. “I drove a Dodge truck recently and you’re able to drive to the movie theater, look up what’s playing, see the trailer, call the theater and buy tickets — all right there on that 7.1-inch screen.

“We’re not very far from ‘Star Trek.’ ”

The World-Herald is preparing to boldly go where few newspapers have gone before.

Beginning in March, The World-Herald will host a sports talk show that will be accessible on Omaha.com or through a “The Bottom Line” phone app.

“The Bottom Line” will run Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and will feature World-Herald sportswriters, entertainment writers and news writers.

Severe will host the show, which he says will cover a combination of sports, entertainment, movies and dining out. Severe makes the move after nearly 10 years as co-host of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on radio station KOZN.

That, along with his experience as a television reporter for KETV, makes him perfect to lead The World-Herald into the new frontier, said Mike Reilly, World-Herald executive editor.

“Mike’l is one of the best, if not the best, sports journalists in our market that’s not on our staff already,” Reilly said. “Adding him is a real coup. He brings unique talent to the room.”

Why Internet radio? Reilly said the traditional newspaper audience continues to evolve as a tablet or Internet audience. This move is about following — or perhaps leading — that audience.

“We’re in an age where our audience is growing, but it’s growing into digital space,” Reilly said. “It’s growing online.

“All the industry trends tell us that people want options online other than reading words. They want to listen. They want to view.

“Mike’l is going to help us do that in a whole new way. We had our toe in the door with video. Now we’re busting open the door with a daily show.”

Reilly said he and World-Herald Publisher Terry Kroeger and Larry King, vice president of news and content, have discussed this move for two years. Only a handful of newspapers in the U.S. have their own online radio show, but that number figures to increase in the future.

“One of my favorite quotes is from Wayne Gretzky,” Reilly said. “You skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been. I think about that quote as I think about this project for us. We see the future of radio, so we’re going there.”

That’s exactly why Severe said he is leaving a traditional radio job he loved.

“It’s pioneering,” Severe said. “One of the reasons I chose to make this move is the future of news talk, sports talk. The future is online.

“It’s being in your car with an Internet-compatible vehicle system, being able to listen to what’s going on the web, listening through your earpiece to your favorite show, having your laptop or phone on the seat and dialing up your favorite show.

“I don’t think AM radio, in its current form, is what we’re going to see in five years. The future is very bright for this, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.”

Severe said the power of the Internet audience struck him the night after the Nebraska-Iowa football game. An audiotape of two Husker Sports Network broadcasters talking about coach Bo Pelini went viral on the Internet, and Severe posted it on the radio station’s website.

“I posted that on SoundCloud at 11:45 at night,” Severe said. “By 3 a.m., something like 30,000 people had listened to the clip.

“There are so many people who already listen (to the radio) on the stream (Internet). The reach on the radio is antiquated. That’s not the way things are now.

“The wheel has already started. It hasn’t rolled over AM radio yet, but it would be better to be on the other side of that wheel when it does. I think in five years everybody will be getting their radio on their phone or on the Internet or tablet.”

Severe’s vision for “The Bottom Line” is a sports-heavy theme with World-Herald sportswriters among his regular guests. He’ll also bring World-Herald concert, movie and dining writers into the show on various days. “The Bottom Line” will have the ability to go to any breaking news story, with a World-Herald reporter on the scene, as well as do shows from Memorial Stadium, CenturyLink Center and other sports venues.

Severe will do the show from a studio being built in a corner of the World-Herald newsroom.

“We have the pre-eminent sports staff in the region,” Reilly said. “We know from what other radio stations are doing in our market, they recognize how talented our writers are. So we’re going to provide our own radio home.

“I want the show to be entertaining, I want it to be informative and I want it to be a proud part of The World-Herald brand. The World-Herald brand is all about being a trustworthy source of reliable information.”

Severe, a native of New Orleans, grew up reading the Times-Picayune and calls himself a newspaper junkie. He’s also a techno-junkie and is looking forward to leading The World-Herald audience on this fun journey.

“I grew up a newspaper guy — I loved the Picayune,” Severe said. “My wife is a huge newspaper junkie. That was one of our first questions (to The World-Herald): Do we get a discount?

“This is a new age for newspapers. The responsibility now is to get to the next level. I still want to have that tangible product in my hand. The question is, how do you supplement it, hour by hour, minute by minute?

“For years, it was always ‘read it tomorrow.’ Now, if you want to talk about it right this minute, pick up a phone and we’ll talk about it right now.”

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