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Sarah Smith: KETV's Ultimate Team Player

Driving her station to lead in Omaha, on the air and on the Web 12/20/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Though Sarah Smith holds a B.A. from the
University of Illinois, she credits much
of her success with Omaha station KETV to
her “MBWA.”

“I call it a ‘Masters in Business by Walking
Around,’” says Smith, KETV president/general
manager. “I walk around the building a fair bit
and honestly ask people what they’re working
on. I think part of it is being present and participating,
so that you understand the process
everyone goes through to get the product online
and on the air every day.”

Smith’s level of engagement helped the Hearst
outlet post record revenue in 2010 and lead its
Website,, to beat out as
the top source in Omaha for local forecasts.

SarahSmith.jpg“She is consumed with the responsibility,
challenge and excitement of running a television
station in that market, and she does it masterfully
well,” says David Barrett, Hearst Television
president and CEO. “This was a year of opportunity,
and she brought in a big harvest for us.”

Hired in 2007 from KRCR in Redding, Calif.,
Smith has driven KETV to become one of
Hearst’s top financial performers, even in the
face of 2009’s economic downturn. Following a
series of position appointments and the expansion
of its news operation into new time periods,
KETV is now Omaha’s most-used news source,
both on-air and online. And while Smith claims
this as her station’s greatest accomplishment this
year, she is wary of resting on such laurels.

“It’s definitely a building process—getting the
right people and moving in the right direction,”
she says. “We’ve made some important position
appointments [this year], but we’ve also kept a
lot of our talent in place. It’s a combination of
keeping what’s working, and when change presents
itself, looking at that as opportunity.”

That change involves plans to move the outlet
from its 54-year-old home to a more state-of-theart
facility—new territory for Smith to patrol.

“When you walk into a building and people
have been in it for 25 or 30 years, you hear
things like, ‘That’s just the way we’ve always
done it.’ KETV is not like that,” Smith says.
“We want to see what we can do with bigger,
faster servers and the addition of HD, how we
can continue to serve the marketplace when
our resources will, comparatively, seem limitless.
To me, that would be the next wave of

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